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Toys To Avoid To Keep Your Child's Eyes Safe

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.


Toy-Related Eye Injuries

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, roughly a quarter of a million children are seen in the nation's hospital emergency departments each year due to toy-related injuries.

Boys shooting aerosol string at each other's face.
Aerosol string that hits the eye can cause a painful irritation of the eye called chemical pink eye.

Nearly half of these injuries are to the head and face, and many are eye injuries. And about 35 percent of toy-related injuries are sustained by children under age 5.

But eye safety often is the last thing on people's minds when buying toys for children.

Online surveys conducted by AllAboutVision.com revealed that 41 percent of parents either "rarely" or "never" considered eye safety when choosing toys for their kids. At the same time, when asked whether any of the toys their children own could cause harm to their eyes, 54 percent of parents responded "definitely," and 22 percent 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.

Clearly, it's time for some rethinking about how we buy toys, to protect children's eyes from damage.

Six Kinds Of Toys That Pose A High Risk For Eye Injuries

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:

Girls fishing for toys in a play pool.
Toy fishing poles can be especially dangerous to the eyes of nearby children.
Boy in the middle of a foam party.
Party foam can cause a chemical burn to the eyes that can result in red eyes, blurred vision and eye infections.
  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 a retinal detachment and 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.

SEE ALSO: Should Your Teen Wear Contacts? Click here to learn more >

W.A.T.C.H. List Of Worst Toys For 2017

World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) is devoted to protecting children from unsafe toys, and each year during the holiday season, the organization releases a list of 10 nominees for the year's worst toys.

Before you shop for toys, take a look at the three items below. All are on the 2017 "10 Worst" list, and all could be hazardous to kids' eyes.

These three toys included on the W.A.T.C.H. "10 Worst Toys of 2017" list may increase the risk of eye injuries. [Enlarge]

Nerf Zombie Strike Dreadbolt Crossbow (Hasbro). This crossbow launches arrows at a force sufficient to cause eye injuries. The age recommendation is 8 and older, but can 8-year-olds be trusted never to "aim or shoot at eyes or face of people or animals," as the packaging advises?

Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword (Mattel). This rigid plastic sword can cause facial, eye and other impact injuries. The packaging says it's recommended for children age 6 and older, but we think giving a young child a sword to play with is just asking for trouble.

Spider-Man Spider-Drone Official Movie Edition (Marvel). The blades on this drone rotate at high speed. Sold for use by kids 12 and older, the drone includes numerous warnings, including the advice to "keep spinning rotors away from fingers, hair, eyes, and other body parts."

Many well-known retailers carry eye-hazardous toys, including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Kohl's. Ebay is another big source. You can send these retailers a message by refusing to buy such products.

To view the complete list of 2017 nominees for "10 Worst Toys," please visit the W.A.T.C.H. website .

By the way, we checked to see if any of the potentially eye-hazardous toys on the 2016 W.A.T.C.H. List are still available for sale by major retailers. The answer is yes. Here's a rundown:

Slimeball Slinger (Diggin Active). This "slimeball launcher" that resembles a slingshot is sold with squishy slimeballs that can be fired over 30 feet, according to the manufacturer. Though the packaging (which recommends this toy for children ages 6 and older) includes the warning, "never shoot at any person or animal" and other precautions, the Slimeball Slinger is an eye injury waiting to happen.

Last we checked, these four toys included on the W.A.T.C.H. "10 Worst Toys of 2016" list are still being sold online. [Enlarge]

Nerf Rival Apollo XV-700 Blaster (Hasbro). This is a toy assault gun that shoots yellow foam "high-impact rounds" and is recommended by the manufacturer for children ages 14 and older. The packaging of this blaster encourages "precision battling" and "intense head-to-head competition," and the ammunition provided is shot with enough force to potentially cause eye injuries. Images on the box show children wearing masks covering their face and eyes, but this protection is not included and must be purchased separately (for the user and perhaps for anyone nearby!).

Flying Heroes Superman Launcher (I-Star Entertainment; The Bridge Direct). Recommended by the manufacturer for children as young as age 4, this toy includes a hand-held launcher that shoots a winged plastic Superman figurine into the air. Though the packaging tells users to "never aim at eyes or face" and includes other warnings, this whirling superhero can easily cause a serious corneal abrasion or other eye injury. (Imagine the fun at the emergency room, explaining how Superman is responsible for your child's painful eye injury.)

Banzai Bump N' Bounce Body Bumpers (Toyquest). Recommended by the manufacturer for children ages 4 to 12, this is an inflatable body suit that covers the wearer from the neck to above the knees, with openings for the arms. The idea here is to run into something while wearing the device and you will bounce back. Children on the packaging are shown running into each other without any added "protection" (not included) that is recommended by the manufacturer to prevent injury. And because the Body Bumpers suit may reduce a child's ability to control a fall, there is an increased risk of injury to the head, face and eyes.

Toy Alert

Fidget Spinners: Hazardous To Eyes?

Recent reports have parents wondering if fidget spinners could be dangerous to children's eyes (and other body parts).

In case you don't know, a fidget spinner has two or three rounded blades attached to a circular core, and you spin the blades with a flick of your finger or hand while holding the core.

Fidget spinners come in a rainbow of colors and don't cost much, so kids have been collecting them. Some people say they can help certain kids stay focused and calm; others feel they are distracting and shouldn't be allowed in classrooms.

More worrisome are reports that the spinners can cause injuries, partly because they are prone to breaking apart. A mother in Texas posted on Facebook about her 10-year-old daughter choking on a bearing that came out of the toy when she put it in her mouth to clean it. A doctor had to perform an endoscopy to remove it from her esophagus. The spinners that light up contain small button batteries that have also been called a choking hazard for young children.

And an Australian boy reportedly threw his spinner in the air and sustained a painful injury to the corner of his eye when it fell. Sounds like a close call. Is the risk of vision loss really worth it? — L.S.

Eye-Safe Toy Shopping Tips

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 are thinking about purchasing before doing so, to make sure the child's parents are okay with the type of toy you are considering.

Boy looking through toy rifle sight.
Toy guns with sighting scopes held close to the eye can easily cause a painful corneal abrasion.

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. So a new toy may not end up in the hands of the child you bought it for.

For more tips on choosing toys that are age-appropriate and eye-safe, please read our article, "Toys and Eye Safety."

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Page updated December 2017