Pediatric Ophthalmology Consultants

Eye Safety for Children

Accidents resulting in eye injuries can happen to anyone. More than half of all eye injuries occur in people under the age of 25. Of the 100,000 eye injuries that occur annually, 40 percent occur during sports or recreational activities. In the 5 to 14 year old age group, baseball is the number one cause of sports-related injuries. In the 15 to 24 year old age group, basketball is the most common cause of eye injuries caused by contact with fingers and elbows. Perhaps the most startling statistic is that 90 percent of all eye injuries could be prevented.

It is important for parents to familiarize themselves with potentially dangerous situations at home and in school and to insist that their children use protective eyewear when participating in sports or other hazardous activities.

Children and sports

Increasing numbers of children are participating in sports at an early age. Many sports have official standards for safety equipment. Some activities in which children should use protective eyewear are:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Racquet sports
  • Soccer
  • Wrestling
  • All forms of hockey (ice, roller, street, and field)
  • Lacrosse
  • Paintball
  • In baseball, ice hockey, and boy’s lacrosse, a helmet with a polycarbonate (an especially strong, shatter proof, lightweight plastic) face mask or wire shield should be worn at all times. It is important that hockey face masks be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Sport eye protectors with polycarbonate lenses should be worn for sports such as basketball, racquet sports, soccer, baseball fielders, girl’s lacrosse, and field hockey. Choose eye protectors that have been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards or that pass the CSA racquet sports standard.

Protective glasses or goggles with UV protection should be worn snow or water skiing. They will help shield the eyes from sunburn and glare.

Boxing and full-contact martial arts pose an extremely high risk of serious and even blinding eye injuries. There is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing, although thumbless gloves may reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.

Parents of a child with permanently reduced vision in one eye should consider the risks of injury to the good eye before allowing their child to participate in contact or racquet sports. Appropriate eye protectors may allow for participation. Check with your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D).

Contact lenses offer NO PROTECTION, and contact lens wearers require additional protection when participating in sports.

Eye safety at home and in the yard

To provide the safest environment for your children, select games, and toys that are appropriated for their age and responsibility level.

Provide adequate supervision and instruction when your children handle potentially dangerous items, such as pencils, scissors, forks, and penknives. Be aware that even common household items such as paper clips, bungee cords, wire coat hangers, rubber bands, and fishhooks can cause serious eye injuries.

Avoid projectile toys such as darts, bows and arrows, and missile-firing toys. Do not allow your children to play with non-powder rifles, pellet guns or BB guns. They are extremely dangerous and have been reclassified as firearms and removed from toy departments.

Keep all chemicals and sprays, such as sink cleaner or oven cleaners, out of reach of small children.

Do not allow children to ignite fireworks or stand near others who are doing so. All fireworks are potentially dangerous for children of all ages.

Do not allow children in the yard while a lawnmower is in use. Stones and debris thrown from moving blades can cause severe eye injuries.

Demonstrate the use of appropriate protective eyewear to children by always wearing protective eyewear yourself while using power tools, rotary mowers, line lawn trimmers, or while hammering. Children will learn by your example.

Eye safety in school

When participating in shop or some chemistry science labs, students should wear protective goggles and/or shields that meet the American National Standards In statute (ANSI) Z87.1 safety standard.

General eye safety for children

Ophthalmologists strongly recommend that children with good vision in only one eye wear protective glasses at all times to protect the good eye, even if they do not need glasses otherwise. The lenses should be made of polycarbonate and have a center thickness of 2mm for daily wear and 3mm for sports.

Choosing a sturdy frame will reduce the risk of injury from the frames themselves. Frames that meet the ANSI industrial standards offer the best available protection for general spectacle wear.

Prescription lenses can be fitted into some types of sports eye protectors, but at present frames without lenses do not provide adequate protection.

When an injury does occur

When an eye injury does occur, it is always best to have an ophthalmologist or other medical doctor examine the eye as soon as possible. The seriousness of an eye injury may not be immediately obvious.


Credits: Journal of American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus


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