Around 3,000 children in the US received treatment for eye injuries caused by paintball guns, airsoft guns, BB guns and pellet guns in 2012.
In 2014, emergency departments across the US treated over 250,000 children under the age of 12 for toy-related injuries.
Research conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine, CA, published earlier this year shows that the rate of children's eye injuries from non-powder guns rose by 511% between 2010-12, when 3,000 children received treatment for eye injuries from paintball guns, airsoft guns, BB guns and pellet guns.
The most common eye injuries that result from playing with these toys are corneal abrasions, or scratches on the surface of the eye, and hyphema, where blood pools in the front of the eye.
Sometimes the injury can be more severe and cause blindness - for instance, due to rupture of the eyeball or detachment of the retina.
The experts warn, however, that other projectile or flying toys can also harm children's eyes. These include slingshots, dart guns and even the increasingly popular drone, which is often treated as a toy.
Recommended eye safety points
The American Academy of Ophthalmology urge people to consider the following eye safety points when buying and giving toys to children:
- Avoid giving your child airsoft guns, BB guns, paintball guns and any toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts that can propel foreign material into the eyes
- Only buy laser toys that carry a label showing they comply with 21 CFR Subchapter J to show they meet federal requirements for laser products, such as power limitations
- If buying your child sports equipment, ensure you also buy appropriate protective eyewear made with polycarbonate lenses because these are shatterproof and less likely to damage the eye if they break
- Only give toys appropriate for the child's age and maturity - check the age recommendations on the label
- Provide appropriate adult supervision when children play with toys that could cause eye injury and always keep toys bought for older children away from younger children.
Should your child receive an eye injury, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist - an eye doctor.
Dr. Jane Edmond, pediatric ophthalmologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says:
"Every year, we see kids shot in the eye with pellets, BBs or foam darts. These can all cause permanent, serious eye damage to a child. If you do let your children play with these types of toys, make sure they wear protective eyewear."
Meanwhile, Medical News Today recently learned how digital glasses can help children who have lazy eye. The programmable electronic glasses - presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in November - helped improve vision in children with a lazy eye just as well as more traditional treatments that use eye patches, said the researchers.