Focus on Pediatrics: Eye injuries steal the joy of the holidays

Give parents guidelines on toys to prevent ED visits

Each year around this time, children awake during the holidays excited to see what toys they will receive. However, once all the presents are unwrapped and play begins, children may end up at the emergency department rather than Grandma’s house for dinner.

There are several reasons eye-related injuries occur when playing with toys, says Betsy van Die, media relations director for Prevent Blindness America in Schaumburg, IL. Children may receive a toy that is not appropriate for their age or gain access to a toy that was given to their older brother or sister.

For example, many of the 2,000 eye injuries reported in emergency departments each year are in children younger than 4 years old playing with toy weapons such as bows and arrows, slingshots, and cap guns. About 70% of eye injuries from scooters were among children up to age 4, says van Die. The other 30% were between 5 to 14 years old.

Parents, friends, and relatives should read the instructions and suggested age level on the package, but also personally should assess the toy to see if it is appropriate for the child’s ability and age. According to guidelines issued by Prevent Blindness America, people need to realize that the listings are not simply for developmental suitability, but also are for safety reasons as well.

Some products have the American Society for Testing and Materials stamp of approval, says van Die. "That means the product has met the national safety standard set up by that group," she explains.

In addition to looking at a product to make sure that it is age-appropriate, those who purchase toys should examine them for safe construction. Toys for young children should be made of durable plastic or wood and have no sharp edges or points, according to Prevent Blindness America. Parents should also avoid toys with small parts or those that might break on impact if their young children drop or bang them against a hard surface.

Observation should be ongoing and not limited to when the toys are first purchased, says van Die. Older children can alter toys or misuse them making them unsafe. Also, parents should monitor the toy chest for broken toys. If the toys cannot be safely repaired, they should be thrown away.

Often, unsafe toys are placed on recall lists as well. These lists are posted at large toy retailers. Parents should return all toys on the list for a full refund. Information on toy recalls also can be found on the U.S. Product Safety Commission web site at

It’s important that playtime is monitored. Toys that seem safe can cause eye injuries. For example, crayons and chalk can injure an eye if a child is poked with the object. Also, model and craft sets can cause eye injuries. Balloons are not only a choking hazard, but they can injure an eye when they pop, says van Die.

Each year, children make out their wish lists. Parents should make out a list as well with recommendations on gifts they feel are appropriate for their child, according to Prevent Blindness America.


For more information about teaching patients to select safe toys, contact:

Betsy van Die, Media Relations Director, Prevent Blindness America, 500 E. Remington Road, Schaumburg, IL 60173-5611. Telephone: (800) 331-2020. Web site: E-mail: