Keep Eye Safety in Mind When Buying Holiday Gifts

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December is Safe Toys and Celebrations Month. As they did last year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is education parents and grandparents through its its EyeSmart™ campaign of the dangers many toys can pose to children's eyes.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 235,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2008; nearly three quarters of those injured were children under age 15.
Many of these eye injuries happen around the holidays due to unsafe use of toys, but the vast majority of these injuries can be prevented.

Sadly, some popular children’s gifts around the holidays can cause serious eye injuries. These potentially unsafe presents during the holidays can include BB guns, darts, pellet guns and paintball guns.

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A serious eye injury from a toy can ruin your family’s holiday and, more seriously leave your child with permanent vision loss. “I saw an 11 year-old boy who received a BB gun as a gift,” said David Wheeler, MD, clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “He was playing with the gun for the first time when his friend accidentally shot him square in the eyeball. Neither of the boys were wearing protective eyewear. Unfortunately, my patient suffered extreme damage and vision loss, and even after going through several surgeries, he was left legally blind in that eye.”

With so many toys being recalled or having the potential to cause injuries, many parents are wondering what toys are safe. “It’s important for parents to choose a toy that is appropriate for their child's age, abilities, and the parents’ willingness to supervise use of the toy,” says Dr. Wheeler. Sports equipment, a popular gift, should also include the protective eyewear. Sports-related eye injuries can cause permanent vision loss and account for about 40,000 eye injuries annually.

Tips for a safe holiday season:

  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts.
  • Make sure children have appropriate supervision when playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause injury.
  • If you plan to give sports equipment, provide appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. Check with your local Eye M.D. to learn about protective gear recommended for your child's sport.
  • Check labels for age recommendations and be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for a child’s age and maturity.
  • Keep toys that are made for older children away from younger children.
  • The branches and needles of Christmas trees can be hazardous to the eyes, so be especially careful when untying your tree. The branches can burst forward, hitting and injuring your eyes. Glass ornaments should be hung out of a child’s reach to avoid potential injury.

For more information about eye safety and eye injuries, go to www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/injuries/

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