Most parents today are aware that proper safety equipment offers children valuable protection while playing sports. But many parents are still unaware of just how prevalent eye injuries are during seemingly ordinary activities and playtime. While nearly two-thirds of all pediatric eye injuries occur in boys, all children of every age need protection from everyday eye hazards.
The most common causes of childhood eye injuries include:
- Falls on stairs, from beds, into furniture, and onto toys
- Misuse of toys
- Contact with harmful household products, such as cleansers, detergents, paints, glues, etc.
- Misuse of everyday objects and household tools, such as eating utensils, writing implements, hammers, screwdrivers, etc.
- Automobile accidents.
At home, baby- and child-proofing are a necessity. Eye injuries resulting from falls on stairs can be prevented by the simple use of baby gates at the tops and bottoms of staircases, along with adequate lighting and sturdy handrails.
Furniture and fixtures pose another threat to children’s eyes. Cushion sharp corners and pad the edges of household furnishings, like tabletops and brick hearths.
Install cabinet and drawer locks in kitchens and bathrooms. Personal items, such as cosmetics and toiletries, as well as kitchen utensils and desk supplies, must be stored out of reach of small children.
Only the most secure area in your home should store paints, pesticides, fertilizers, and the like. Young children must be kept safe from all chemicals, medications, sprays, and aerosols. If you wish to let older children help with a home improvement or repair project, outfit them appropriately with child-sized safety glasses or safety goggles, and be sure to where safety glasses or safety goggles yourself as a good example.
We all hope our children’s toys stimulate their imaginations and creativity. But choosing safe toys is critical to reaping these rewards. Always start by reading the instructions and warnings on every new toy. Avoid toys with sharp or rigid points, shafts, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges. Keep toys intended for older children away from younger children, as flying toys and projectile-firing toys are particularly dangerous to children under five years old.
BB guns are not toys and should be kept away from children. These guns cause countless eye injuries each year, and although they were once sold as toys, they are extremely dangerous when pointed at another person. Fireworks and darts are equally dangerous to small children and, when misused, hold great potential for eye injury.
The time our kids spend outside, engaged with nature, is priceless. However, children are particularly susceptible to the sun’s damaging rays, as the lenses of their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. This allows more UV radiation to reach the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye. Studies show that long-term exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays contribute to many types of serious eye conditions, including cataracts, benign and cancerous growths, and photokeratitis — a painful sunburn to the eye’s surface. The best protection against the sun’s damaging rays is consistent use of proper child-sized sunglasses when playing outdoors.
For optimum protection, use the following tips when selecting your children’s sunglasses:
- Be sure they block out 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
- Check that the lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
- Choose gray, green, or brown lenses (gray is recommended)
And most importantly, remember that the effects of UV radiation are cumulative, so it’s important to develop good protection habits early in your child’s life.
Of course, one of the main outdoor childhood activities is sports. Sports are the leading cause of eye disability in American children, and the second most common cause of preventable vision loss during childhood. The highest risk sports include basketball, hockey, and golf, so parents must educate their children about eye protection and enforce the use of protective sports eyewear.
Correct installation and consistent use of infant and child safety seats, booster seats, and safety belts are the best ways to keep children safe in an accident. Kids 12 years old and younger should never ride in the front seat. Loose items should be stored in the trunk or secured on the floor, as any loose objects become very dangerous in a crash.
Take your child to an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam every year, and take the above precautions to save one of the most precious gifts your child was born with. The gift of sight.