Don't Let Your "Christmas Story" Go Awry - 5 Things Parents Need to Know About Dangerous Toys

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 17-Dec-2015

In the 1983 movie classic “A Christmas Story,” youngster Ralphie Parker’s plea for an “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle” is rebuffed by both his mom and a department store Santa Claus.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” Santa warned. As it turns out, Santa and Ralphie’s mom weren’t blowing smoke. Toy guns and other weapons can cause serious eye injuries, and such injuries are on the rise.

Clip courtesy of TBS YouTube

If you plan to gift your child with toy guns or other potentially dangerous toys this holiday season, consider these five facts first.

1. Pediatric eye injuries from toy guns are up 500 percent.

According to a recent Stanford University School of Medicine study, rates of severe non-powder gun pediatric eye injuries are actually on the rise – up more than 500 percent since 2010. The study also revealed that 98 percent of these injuries occurred while the injured was not wearing eye protection.

Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Dallas Ophthalmologist Kimberly Warren, M.D. has seen the results of toy-related injuries first hand, especially over the holiday season.

As she explains, “During the holidays, kids can get bored because they have free time on their hands. Consequently, we do see an uptick in eye injuries when school is out.”

Dallas eye doctor Kimberly Warren, M.D., explains the proper steps to take following a penetrating eye injury.

2. Movie blockbusters like “The Hunger Games” and “Star Wars” fuel the toy weapons market.

While kids still ask for BB guns, Nerf guns and the like today, guns aren’t the only toy weapons of choice this holiday season. Hunger Games protagonist Katniss’ bow and arrow set and Star Wars lightsabers are sure to dominate children’s Christmas lists this year.

According to Dr. Warren, parents should pay close attention to the risks associated with toys they purchase for their kids this holiday season.

“It’s not just BB guns or Nerf guns that can cause injury to a child. Any toy that shoots a projectile or is stick-like (guns, swords, lightsabers, darts, etc.) can cause injury to the child or the brother, sister, neighbor or family pet he or she chooses as a target,” Dr. Warren says.

3. Toy-related eye injuries can result in permanent vision loss.

When a projectile such as a BB, Nerf dart, arrow or the tip of a stick-like toy come in contact with the eye, the most common eye injuries include corneal abrasions, bleeding in the eye and detached retinas. Infections in the eye can also occur if the child doesn’t receive proper treatment.

While losing an eye or permanent vision loss is less common, the risk is still very real.

“Something as simple as a toy dart can cause serious damage. In our practice, we’ve seen children blinded after throwing a dart at a surface too close to their face where the dart flew back and hit the child in the eye. Any sharp projectile objects are risky. Rubbing the eyes following a penetrating eye injury can also contribute to irreparable vision loss,” warns Dr. Warren.

4. Education is the key to preventing toy-related eye injuries.

With a variety of potentially dangerous toys available to kids today, Dr. Warren encourages parents to talk with children about the possible dangers some toys pose and how to prevent eye injuries. It’s also important to set boundaries regarding when it’s OK to play with certain toys and under what circumstances. Parents should:

  • Tell kids it’s NOT OK to point a weapon – toy or not – at another person or animal. “When kids have guns, the problem is they want to aim them at people – usually a sibling – or animals, rather than an inanimate object or target. Children need to understand that toys like guns, arrows and lightsabers can harm others if not used safely. Parents need to explain the risks and consequences,” cautions Dr. Warren.
  • Review safety precautions and required gear with kids before play. Most toy weapons and chemistry sets come with safety guidelines that parents should review closely with children. In addition, protective eyewear is a must and the first line of defense against pediatric eye injuries.
  • Require that a responsible adult be present during play. “Kids naturally forgo following safety rules or wearing safety gear when adults aren’t around. Let kids know a parent, adult relative or babysitter must be present if they want to play with certain toys,” Dr. Warren says.

5. If an eye injury does occur, act fast!

We get it, you can’t prevent every injury – accidents happen. So what should you do if your child sustains an eye injury? Before high-tailing it to your eye doctor’s office or the emergency room, Dr. Warren recommends the following.

  • Shield the eye immediately following a penetrating eye injury. As Dr. Warren explains, “If the child was shot in the eye with a toy gun or poked in the eye with a stick, lightsaber or sword, it’s important to protect the eye with sunglasses, safety glasses or sterile gauze as soon as possible. You want to make sure the child refrains from rubbing or touching the eye, because that could make the injury worse.”
  • Flush the eye with water or saline following a chemical eye injury. “If the child plays with a chemistry set and liquids splash into their eyes that are not a neutral pH (or if any detergent, soap, cleaning liquid with an alkaline base comes into contact with the eyes), these substances can be toxic to the corneal surface. Whenever you get an acid or basic substance in the eye you need to flush it out immediately,” Dr. Warren says.

Dr. Warren explains what parents should do if a child gets chemicals in the eyes.

Once you either shield or flush the eye, a trip to an eye care practitioner, emergency room or urgent care is essential.

“You should never wait to see a doctor when someone sustains an eye injury, because only a medical expert can determine whether an injury is significant or not and prescribe treatment. Don’t risk the health of your child’s eyes,” Dr. Warren says.

The Key-Whitman Dallas and North Dallas locations are currently accepting new patients ages 6 and older. To schedule an eye health exam or consultation, call (855) 600-7296 or contact us via our online scheduling tool. In case of an emergency, call 911.

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