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Avoid these toys to prevent kids' eye injuries in 2022

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What child doesn't like toys? And what parent or grandparent doesn't enjoy buying a fun gift for their young loved ones?

But some toys that look really fun can pose a serious risk of eye injuries — including serious injuries that can result in permanent vision loss.

Toys cause thousands of eye injuries every year

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than a quarter of a million children were seen in the nation's hospital emergency departments in 2017 due to toy-related injuries.

Aerosol string that hits the eye can cause a painful irritation of the eye called chemical pink eye.

In 2020, nearly 150,000 children under 14 were seen in U.S. emergency departments due to toy-related injuries, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimate.

Nearly half of these were "head and face" injuries, which include trauma to the eyes and area around the eyes. The same injuries represented over 65% of total injuries to children under age 4.

Despite this, it can be easy to forget about eye safety when you're shopping for toys.

Online surveys conducted by All About Vision revealed that

  • When choosing toys for their kids, 41% of parents said they "rarely" or "never" consider eye safety.

  • When asked whether any of their children's toys could cause an eye injury, 54% of parents responded "definitely" and 22% said "possibly."

Common eye injuries caused by mishaps with toys can range from a minor scratch to the front surface of the eye (called a corneal abrasion) to very serious, sight-threatening injuries such as corneal ulcers, traumatic cataracts, bleeding inside the eye and retinal detachment.

The "worst" toys of 2021

World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) is a nonprofit organization founded to protect children from toys that could cause physical harm. At the beginning of the holiday season each year, the group publishes a Top 10 list of the year's "worst" toys, in terms of safety.

The lists can help parents make informed buying decisions during the 2021 holiday season and well into 2022, until the next list of nominees is released sometime before Thanksgiving 2022.

The 2021 nominees include two toys that could cause eye injuries in children:

Nerf Hyper Rush-40 Blaster

The manufacturer, Hasbro, advertises that the Hyper Rush-40 Blaster can shoot Nerf ammunition with "extreme speed." That might sound exciting to kids, but it's a red flag for potential eye injuries.

Hasbro does include a warning not to aim the toy at the eyes or face. They also include a pair of plastic eyeglasses, but the full face covering pictured on the box is sold separately.

While Hasbro includes an age recommendation of "14+" for the product, it's up to parents to follow that guidance and make sure their kids' faces and eyes are protected.

Snake Eyes G.I. Joe Origins Ninja Strike Sickles

It isn't hard to see how a toy shaped like a sickle (curved blade) could spell trouble for eye safety. The toy blades are made of plastic, but W.A.T.C.H. warns that a forceful impact could cause "facial and other impact injuries."

This toy comes with a warning not to "swing, poke or jab at people or animals." Hasbro only recommends it for children ages 5 and up.

Other nominees, like Hape International's "Learn To Play Drum," have features that could lead to eye injuries too. In the drum’s case, W.A.T.C.H. focuses on the choking hazard presented by the "rigid" pair of 5.5-inch drumsticks. However, the drumsticks may also pose a risk to kids' eyes.

You can see the complete list of nominees on toysafety.org.

Other toys with a high risk of eye injury

Here's a list of six types of toys you might want to cross off your list when buying gifts for young children. Each has a high potential risk for eye injuries — especially if used by young children without adult supervision and guidance:

  1. Guns that shoot ANY type of projectile. This includes toy guns that shoot lightweight, cushy darts. You might think these soft projectiles would pose little or no risk, but toy guns of this type can shoot up to distances of 75 feet, and the darts move at speeds fast enough to cause a serious eye injury — especially when used at close range indoors.

  2. Water balloon launchers and water guns. Water balloons can cause serious blunt trauma to the eye that can cause retinal detachment and lead to permanent vision loss. Even toy guns that shoot a stream of water can cause serious eye damage, especially when used at close range.

  3. Games that include toy fishing poles. The end of a toy fishing pole or objects secured to the end of the fishing line can easily end up in a playmate's eye.

  4. Toy wands, swords, sabers or guns with bayonets. There's really no need to explain why these are a bad idea, right?

  5. Aerosol string. The chemicals in these products can cause eye irritation and a type of pink eye called chemical conjunctivitis. When used at close range, aerosol string also can cause a corneal abrasion that could lead to serious eye infections.

  6. Laser pointers and bright flashlights. Though technically not toys, many children love to play "laser tag" or "flashlight tag." Portable laser pointers, like those used for business presentations, should never be used by children, as the light intensity of these devices is sufficient to cause permanent vision loss. Even high-powered LED flashlights can be dangerous, because they can cause temporary blindness, putting children at risk of a fall or other accident.

How to choose eye-friendly toys

If you are buying toys for grandchildren or the children of other relatives or friends, ask for suggestions from the child's parents. Discuss any toys you're thinking about purchasing to make sure the child's parents are okay with the type of toy you're considering.

Also, it's usually best to shop for children's toys in a store rather than online so you can see the toy's features up close to help you decide if it's safe enough for a young child.

Although toy packaging usually includes a recommended age range of children for whom the toy was designed, keep in mind that these are general guidelines only. A toy that may be appropriate for one child may not be safe for another child of the same age, depending on their level of maturity and personality.

In fact, age ranges on toy labels often defy common sense. We saw a pointy toy sword online that was labeled as suitable for 3-year-olds!

Also, keep in mind when buying toys for older children that they may have younger siblings who could have access to the toys. It's possible a new toy may not end up in the hands of the child you bought it for.

READ NEXT: More information about toys and eye safety

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