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Thursday, December 27, 2012 by The Press in Opinion

Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology urges parents to keep an eye on toy safety

The holidays are a wonderful time for family festivities, but too many celebrations are interrupted each year due to unsafe use of toys, which can lead to serious eye injuries in children.

The good news is the vast majority of these injuries can be prevented.

During Safe Toys and Celebrations Month in December, the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology reminds parents to keep their children's eyes safe from problem toys.

Children receive all types of potentially unsafe presents during the holidays, including BB guns, airsoft guns, pellet guns and darts.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 250,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2010, and nearly three quarters of those injured were children age 15 or younger.

"A serious eye injury can ruin your celebration and, more seriously, leave your child with permanent vision loss," said Kenneth Cheng MD, PAO immediate past president and pediatric ophthalmologist. "That's why it's so important for parents to choose a toy appropriate for their child's age, abilities and maturity.

Because so many toys have the potential to cause injuries, many parents wonder which toys are safe.

Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts. This includes seemingly innocent toys like popguns or paddleball sets. Parents should also remember that sports equipment, a popular gift, should also include appropriate protective eyewear.

Sports-related eye injuries account for about 40,000 eye injuries annually and can cause permanent vision loss.

If you plan to give sports equipment to your children, add some appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses, too.

Parents can check with their eye doctor to learn about protective gear recommended for their child's sport.

To keep your children's eyes safe from toy-related eye injuries, follow these five EyeSmart tips:

· Avoid buying toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts;

· Check labels for age recommendations and be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for a child's age and maturity;

· Branches and needles of Christmas trees can be hazardous to the eyes, so be especially careful when untying your tree. The branches can burst forward, hitting and injuring your eyes. Glass ornaments should be hung out of a child's reach to avoid potential injury;

· Make sure children have appropriate supervision when playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause injury; and

· Keep toys made for older children away from younger children.

For more information about eye safety and eye injuries, visit geteyesmart.org.

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Editor's note: The Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology has been working to preserve and protect vision and eye health for Pennsylvania's residents since 1943.