After seeing a bunch of eye injuries in clinic in recent weeks, I was compelled to write this post on eye safety. Let's learn about how we can prevent our kids from injuring their eyes.
How often do eye injuries occur?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Society of Ocular Trauma estimate that every year in the United States more than 2.5 million eye injuries occur, and 50,000 of these folks permanently lose part or all of their vision from these injuries. Approximately half of the injuries occur at home, and 90% of these injuries could have been prevented with protective eyewear!
How many of these eye injuries are in kids?
The most recent study I found that looked at this question was published in JAMA Ophthalmology in 2018. It estimated that there were 1,713,710 emergency department visits for pediatric eye injuries across the United States during a 9-year study period. When this study looked at one year's (2014) worth of emergency room visits for eye injuries in kids, it found that an acute eye injury occurred essentially every 3 minutes for that year.
What are some common causes of eye injuries in kids?
The most common causes of injuries are related to strikes to the eye (such as from play fighting), falls, foreign bodies into the eye (from toys, during home repairs, yard work, cooking), chemical injuries from household cleaners, and from pets. Sports-related eye injuries, especially ball and racquet sports, are also very common as are motor vehicle and gun-related eye injuries.
How can I prevent an eye injury?
FOR AROUND YOUR HOME:
Some of these tips may seem really obvious, but I will list them here anyway since we are still seeing so many eye injuries that occur at home!
1. Childproof your house.
2. Practice safe use of common items that can cause serious eye injury.
3. Keep hazardous chemicals and sprays out of reach.
4. Buy only age appropriate toys.
5. Supervise your household pets. Unfortunately, dog bites are a common cause of eye injury in kids, and the culprit dog is usually one the child is familiar with.
6. Educate your child on eye safety.
7. Last but not least, DO NOT allow your child to play with non-powder rifles, pellet guns, BB guns, fireworks, or bottle rockets! Many of these are extremely dangerous for children and can cause serious injuries beyond the eyes.
As a general rule of thumb, eyewear is recommended for any sport that involves projectiles, balls, sticks/racquets, and close contact. For water sports, skiing, biking, and track and field, which are considered low risk sports for eye injury, eyewear is still also recommended for UV protection. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) have a joint policy statement that is a great reference if you are curious about the risk of eye injury for your child's sport and want recommendations for the type of eyewear your child should be wearing.
A special note: if your child only has one good-seeing eye, please talk to an eye doctor first before participating in a sport!
FOR THE ROAD:
Don't forget to buckle up whenever you are going for a ride!
What should I do if my child has an eye injury?
Below are some resources if you want to read more on eye safety. Stay safe!
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