Children are resilient, but this doesn’t mean that safety precautions shouldn’t be taken to protect them from preventable injuries. Eye injuries are among the most common in school-aged children because this is the time in their life when they’re most active and curious. As a parent, coach, educator or guardian, it’s your job to help children preserve one of their most valuable assets: their eyesight.
According to The National Eye Institute, eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in school-aged children and account for about 100,000 doctor visits per year in America. The majority of these injuries occur while a child is playing sports. Luckily, over 90 percent of these injuries can be prevented simply by using protective eyewear. This includes safety goggles, safety glasses and eye shields, which can be worn overtop of prescription glasses or contact lenses.
If your child wears prescription glasses, ask their doctor to fit them for prescription protective goggles to wear during sports and outdoor activities. It’s important to remember that athletic safety goggles are different from industrial or other types of goggles, which should not be worn while playing a sport. Sports-related safety glasses are made with polycarbonate, a durable plastic that can effectively stop fast-moving objects from damaging the eyes. Polycarbonate is not only impact resistant, it also contains UV protection — making it perfect for outdoor sports — and doesn’t compromise visibility.
For the highest quality protective eyewear, buy goggles or glasses that say “ASTM F803 approved.” This means that they’ve been tested to ensure the highest level of protection.
Safety goggles and glasses recommendations vary by sport due to the risks associated with each activity. Any sport that includes a ball, racquet or fast-moving object requires the use of safety goggles. Even sports like tennis or badminton recommend the use of protective eyewear. Eye injuries don’t just occur because of balls or racquets; they can often be caused by other athletes accidentally running into each other or jabbing in the eye as well.
It may take some children a while to get used to wearing protective eyewear, much like it takes time to get used to wearing a bike helmet. Buy glasses that have padding around the areas that come in contact with your child’s face for maximum comfort. Educate your child about the benefits of wearing safety goggles during sports and activities, and talk to your child’s coach or school about requiring protective eyewear.
Preventing Eye Injuries at Home
Besides sports, Prevent Blindness America also lists misuse of toys, car accidents, falls from furniture, misuse of everyday objects and contact with household chemicals as leading causes of blindness in children. Here are some simple tips to protect your child’s eyes:
- Place safety gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs
- Encourage children to hold hand rails when going up or down stairs
- Cover sharp corners and edges in your home with cushioning/pads
- Monitor your child’s use of sharp objects, such as pens, pencils, scissors, kitchen utensils and toys with pointy edges
- Don’t allow your child to run with scissors or other sharp objects
- Keep cleaning supplies, fertilizers and other chemicals out of your child’s reach
When buying toys, pick age-appropriate options and make sure they’re sturdy and impact resistant. Demonstrate how to use toys properly with your kids, and avoid hard projectile toys, like BB guns.
In the car, make sure that your kids are sitting in age-appropriate seating restraints. Infants and young toddlers are safest in a rear-facing car seat up to age two, but follow the safety guidelines listed by the manufacturer for your seat. Older kids should stay in a booster until they reach the weight or height limits set by the manufacturer as well. Never let a child under 12 sit in the front seat, and keep loose objects secure while you’re traveling.
If your child gets injured in her eyes or face, contact your pediatrician or go to the emergency department right away. Long-term damage may be preventable with quick action.