Most of These Occur in the Home

HYANNIS – Every year, thousands of children sustain eye injuries from recreational and sports activities because they don’t wear protective equipment. Many suffer permanent visual impairment.

According to a recent study published inthe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children’s eye injuries from non-powder guns such as pellet, BB, or paint ball rose almost 169 percent between 1990 and 2012.

“Teens are eight times more likely to be hospitalized for an eye injury from one of those guns, than any other type of equipment,” saidGregory Parkinson, MD,a pediatrician at Falmouth Pediatric Associates.

Paintball has increased in popularity and is commonly an activity that teenagers and young adults take part in without immediate parent supervision, said Dr. Parkinson.

“I think the message for teens is to be aware, but also to the parents in making sure that anyone taking part in paint ball is doing all they can do to keep it safe,” he said.

Paintball is usually done in an organized and structured environment where there are people in charge who know it’s in everyone’s best interest to be safe, according to Dr. Parkinson. But with BB or pellet guns, the chances of supervision are lower.

“It’s very important that these guns not be used in an unsupervised setting because the risk of injury is much higher,” he said. “If they use them for target practice, it’s important the target traps the BBs and pellets so they don’t ricochet. [Unfortunately] left to their own devices, young people may be less inclined to wear protective eye gear.”

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)underlines the importance of adherence to safety with non-powder rifles, BB guns and pellet guns and considers them “extremely dangerous.” These types of guns have been removed from toy departments because they have been re-classified as firearms.

Most Common Place

While researchers in the AAP study underscored the seriousness of eye injuries from recreational and sports activities, the most common place where eye injuries occur is in the home, according to Dr. Parkinson.

“It can be anything from common household objects such as pencils, bungee cords, coat hangers and chemicals, to pets,” he said. “Many times young children are the bystanders while an adult is doing something potentially dangerous. Those activities can include mowing the lawn, trimming hedges, other odd jobs around the yard or indoor projects.”

Sports are another area where eye injuries can occur and an attention to safety is important. Among sports-related eye injuries, the AAO lists baseball in the number one spot in children ages five to 14.

Basketball and racket sports are also at the top of the list, according to Dr. Parkinson.

“Injury prevention is really where it all starts,” he said. “This includes wearing the protective equipment when playing sports.”

Safety Tips and First Aid

Dr. Parkinson and the AAO offer the following suggestions for safety:

The adult should set an example by wearing protectiveANSI-rated safety glasses.
Children should be kept a safe distance from the adult activity to prevent bystander injury.
Be careful around pets, especially cats and dogs. Fifteen percent of children under the age of four who are bitten by a dog suffer an eye injury.
Keep household chemicals sealed and away from children.
Properly secure objects in the car to prevent them from becoming projectiles during sudden braking or an accident.
Purchase age-appropriate toys.
Put locks on all cabinets.
Do not allow children near fireworks, especially bottle rockets.
If your child experiences an eye injury, the AAO recommends the following first aid tips while seeking medical treatment:

The injured eye should be examined as soon as possible.
Do not rub, touch or apply pressure to the eye.
Do not try to remove an object stuck to the eye.
For small debris, you can ask the child to blink their eye a few times to see if tears will flush it out. If not, seek treatment.
Do not apply ointment or medication.
A cut or puncture wound should be gently covered.
If a chemical exposure, flush with plenty of water
While most children who suffer eye injuries from non-powder guns and sports go to the emergency room, the pediatricians see the less complex injuries in their offices.

“We see a lot of superficial eye injuries such ascorneal abrasions,” said Dr. Parkinson. “The cornea is an amazing fast-healing part of the body. We no longer patch them, which allows the wound to breathe, receive more oxygen and allow for quicker healing. We advise them to stay of bright sunlight or do anything that makes them uncomfortable and adds to the discomfort they already have. They usually heal within two to three days.”

By ROBERTA CANNON, Cape Cod Health News

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