You’ll shoot your eye out: Christmas toys, champagne corks can pose risk of eye trauma

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has declared December as Safe Toys and Celebrations Month, highlighting how eye-safe toys can help avoid serious eye injuries.

Some Christmas toys can pose a threat to vision.

Christmas can bring with it toys that can pose myriad risks to children, including the potential for vision-threatening eye injuries.

Christmas can bring with it toys that can pose myriad risks to children, including the potential for vision-threatening eye injuries.

Many children end up in an ophthalmologist's office with toy-related eye injuries each year, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Canadian Ophthalmological Society frequently sound the alarm to remind parents to take proper precaution when considering which toys to give to children.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 198,000 toy-related injuries treated in emergency departments across the U.S. in 2020 alone.

Toymakers in the United States adhere to a set of safety rules and regulations under ASTM F963 – Standard Consumer Safety Specifications for Toy Safety.

"With all the excitement during the holidays it's easy to forget about basic safety, however eye injuries among children are one of the major causes of visual impairment," Phil Hooper, MD, president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, said in a news release. "That's why eye care professionals recommend avoiding toys that pose a high risk of eye injuries such as lasers, sharp toys, aerosols like silly string, and flying or projectile toys especially if safety glasses are not worn."

In addition to toys, the amount of time children use their new electronics, including video games and iPads/tablets, should also be monitored, given the increasing evidence that prolonged screen time increases the risk of myopia in children.

The survey also revealed that since the pandemic began, parents report that their children are spending about 4.4 hours in front of a screen on average, which is 1.2 hours more than they did prior to the pandemic. Three-in-five parents whose child(ren)'s COVID screen time is greater than pre-COVID feel that this increased screen time has negatively impacted their child(ren)'s eye health. Findings from the survey also demonstrate the importance of creating a National Vision Health Strategy to educate parents on eye health care.

To help prevent eye injury in children, here are some tips parents can be urged to keep in mind this holiday season:

  • Be sure to confirm the toy is age-appropriate
  • Avoid certain toys that pose a high risk of eye injuries such as toy guns, lasers, aerosols like silly string, flying toys and long, pointy toys such as swords
  • Show children how to properly play with the toys in a safe manner
  • Keep toys that pose a potential eye injury risk away from children unless supervised by an adult
  • Include protective eyewear when giving sports equipment
  • Find out if the packaging has been inspected and approved by the proper regulatory bodies.

Toys aren’t the only hazard, and adults can be at risk, too. Uncorking a bottle of champagne also can pose a risk to a vision-threatening injury.

Pressure within a champagne bottle ranges from 70 to 90 pounds per square inch (psi). A cork can fly up to 50 mph as it leaves the bottle, fast enough to shatter glass. If the cork hits an eye, it can cause bleeding, abrasions and even glaucoma.

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