By Mark Jacquot, OD
Each year thousands of children suffer eye damage or even blindness from accidents at home, at play or in the car. What you as a parent may not know is that 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented if kids would wear the proper protective eyewear.
It may be hard for you to believe, but home sweet home CAN be a dangerous place for young eyes. Accidents involving common household products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year. You can take steps to avoid mishaps at home by first being aware of the leading causes of eye injuries in children:
- Toys – avoid projectile toys like darts or missile-firing, non-power pellet or BB guns or fireworks
- Falls from beds, against furniture, on stairs, and when playing with toys
- Misuse of everyday tools and objects (work and garden tools, knives and forks, pens and pencils)
- Contact with harmful household products (detergents, paints, glues, etc.)
- Dog attacks – for children under 4, roughly 15 percent of attacks result in a child eye injury
A more familiar cause of kids’ eye injuries are leisure time activities and it’s no wonder, with approximately 22 million American kids between the ages of 6 and 17 playing sports. Every year in the U.S, more than 100,000 sports-related eye injuries occur. Baseball is the leading cause of eye injuries in children 14 and under, while basketball is a leading cause of eye injuries to 15- to 24-year-olds.
Again, following a few common sense tips may help to protect your children from sports eye injuries:
- Wear proper safety goggles (lensed polycarbonate protectors) for racquet sports or basketball. Look for safety glasses labeled ASTM F803 approved, which is performance tested to provide the highest levels of protection. Regular glasses do not provide enough protection.
- Eyeguards designed for use in racquet sports are now used for basketball and soccer and in combination with helmets in football, hockey and baseball. The eyeguards should fit securely and comfortably and allow the use of a helmet if necessary. Expect to spend between $20 and $40 for a pair of regular eyeguards and $60 or more for eyeguards with prescription lenses.
- Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for youth baseball.
- Use hockey helmets/ face shields approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association.
One final point: parents may be confused about when is the best time for children to receive an eye exam. Unless your child has earlier symptoms, a good rule of thumb is to schedule a dilated eye exam for kids at age 5 or 6, just prior to starting school or before they begin playing organized sports.
(Dr. Mark Jacquot is a graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry and is a licensed optometrist in the state of Illinois. He currently serves as Clinical Director of LensCrafters. Dr. Jacquot has been listed as one of Optometry’s Top Influencers by Vision Monday and is a member of the American Optometric Association.)