December gift-giving is a part of the holiday celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah for millions of families. Toys are intended to be fun for children, but they can be very dangerous if they are not properly made and designed.

Every year thousands of children end up in the emergency room because of toy-related injuries and many of these involve the head or eyes. The team at Minnesota Eye wants to remind you to make safety a priority during December, which is Safe Toys and Celebrations Month. Don’t let this time of fun and joy turn into a tragedy for your family and friends! Keep reading to learn how to keep you and your family safe this holiday season.

Only Buy Appropriate Toys For Children

Child playing with toys on Christmas

There are thousands of toys to choose from, and every year there are new ones. It’s important to think about potential safety hazards when choosing gifts for children.

Inspect all toys carefully, and make sure they are appropriate for the child’s age and developmental level. Follow the recommended age guidelines that are listed on many packages.

Small children under three tend to put everything in their mouths, so avoid buying toys with small parts that pose a choking danger. Toys intended for older children may contain small pieces, including button batteries. These can pose a risk to curious, younger siblings.

Keep older siblings’ toys away from babies and toddlers. Store their toys in toy chests or on shelves that are out of reach.

Toys with sharp edges and other sharp objects pose particular threats for eye injury and vision loss in children. Pencils, pens, darts, knives, fishing hooks, and scissors are potentially very dangerous and can cause vision loss if they come in contact with the eye’s sensitive tissue.

The choice of toys for children with special needs deserves extra thought and attention. Try to choose toys that may appeal to different senses such as sound, movement, and texture.

Think about the size of the toy and the position a child would need to be in to play with it. Are they able to manage? Consider interactive toys to allow the child to play with others.

Make Sure Toys Meet Safety Standards

It doesn’t hurt to talk about safety concerns with friends and family members who give your children gifts. If you’re comfortable, make some helpful recommendations for age-appropriate toys.

Look for labels that assure you the toys have passed a safety inspection. “ATSM” means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.

Toys with projectiles are common causes of eye injury. Injuries from playing with paintball guns, pellet guns, and other toys with projectiles are also common, sometimes even requiring surgery. Water balloons shot from a launcher can also cause serious eye injuries. BB guns are dangerous and should never be considered toys! The American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommends against buying projectile toys for children.

Although Nerf darts are soft, they are not necessarily safe. Children who get hit in the eye with them can suffer from pain and blurry vision.

If you are giving children sporting equipment, why not include the important safety gear that they should use with it? Be sure to get them helmets and protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses or goggles that are recommended for their sport. Your eye doctor can recommend the best option if you have any questions.

For laser toys, look for labels that state the device complies with federal regulations for laser products, including power limitations. The label should say that the device complies with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J.

Please be aware – laser pointers and flashlights can cause permanent retinal damage if shined into the eye repeatedly or for long periods of time.

Wear Eye Protection When Necessary

Some holiday traditions and celebrations can pose a risk for adults as well as children – Christmas trees, for example.

We recommend wearing eye protection not only while cutting down your tree but also while loading it onto your car. This should prevent any eye injuries, and also keep that sticky sap away from your eyes!

Christmas Tree

Supervise children carefully when decorating the tree. Sharp needles and branches, pointy lights, and glass ornaments can all cause eye injuries. Be sure to hang glass ornaments out of the reach of children. Try not to tuck the presents too far under the tree, as kids may try to reach or crawl under there to get them. This barrier may also keep them at a safe distance, preventing them from pulling on the tree and tipping it over.

Always Stay Vigilant Around Champagne Bottles

Champagne Bottle

For adults, champagne is often a feature of New Year’s Eve celebrations, but be careful about flying corks.

Use a hand towel when popping a cork to avoid it flying into someone’s eye! When you’re ready to open, hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle and point it away from yourself and others.

Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses Or Sun Goggles If You’re Outside

Man skiing

For some people, a ski vacation with family and friends is the best part of celebrating the holidays. Be sure to take sunscreen and sun goggles for everyone.

Many people don’t realize that sun damage can occur during the winter. UV rays that reflect off snow can be twice as strong. Sunglasses or sun goggles that block 99-100% of UV rays and wrap around the eye provide the best protection.

If anyone, adult or child, sustains an eye injury, please see an ophthalmologist immediately. We hope that you will keep safety in mind and protect your family’s vision as you enjoy your holiday celebrations!

Want to see your best this holiday season? Schedule an appointment at Minnesota Eye Consultants in Minneapolis, MN today!