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Eyes on the Holidays: How to Avoid a Toy-related Trip to the ER

The famous catchphrase from the classic holiday film, A Christmas Story – “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” – was a department store Santa’s response to a young boy’s request for a Red Ryder BB gun. But Santa’s reply is actually sage advice for anyone looking to buy safe holiday toys for children.

“Thousands of children end up in the emergency room every year with eye injuries from a new toy,” says Sandy T. Feldman MD, a San Diego-based physician and one of the nation’s top ophthalmologists. “That’s not a fun way for any child or parent to spend a holiday.”

Children are born with an underdeveloped vision system that develops over time. Young children are very visually stimulated, and nothing stimulates a child’s vision more than a brightly colored new toy.

“Kids spend a lot of time with their toys, so it’s very important to make sure they are safe enough to play with,” says Dr. Feldman. “When eye injuries occur, it’s usually because a toy wasn’t age-appropriate for the child.”

Dr. Feldman offers 12 simple tips for selecting safe toys for children this holiday season:

  • Avoid any toy with sharp or rough edges, spikes, or other dangerous features
  • Make sure toys are sturdy and well-built, able to withstand impact and not shatter into sharp-edged pieces
  • Avoid toys that shoot or launch small balls, darts, water, or any other objects
  • Long-handled toys – such as a pony stick or light saber – should be light-weight and have rounded edges
  • Look for the letters ASTM, which indicates a toy meets safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials
  • Sports equipment should always be accompanied by appropriate protective gear, such as eye goggles or a helmet
  • Read all warnings and directions included with a toy before giving it to the child
  • Pay attention to the age or developmental recommendations printed on toy boxes
  • Any toy labeled “supervision required” should only be used in an adult’s presence
  • Keep toys intended for older children away from younger ones
  • To prevent eye strain and fatigue, set time limits on any electronic devices gifted to older children, such as e-readers, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers
  • Dispose of toys’ plastic wrapping material and cardboard packaging, as they may have sharp edges that can cause injury

“There are a lot of wonderful toys out there. Just be diligent about what you buy, and be sure to inspect any gifts from other people before a child plays with it,” said Dr. Feldman. “By preventing unnecessary eye injuries, you’ll ensure that everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season.”

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