What’s this? Contrary to most parents’ thinking, running with scissors is not the leading cause of eye injury in kids younger than 5. “Corneal abrasion from fingers, toys, pencils and balls are the most common injury in this age group,” says Stacy L. Pineles, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA. Scratches or cuts to the cornea—the clear protective area at the front of your eye—can be very painful. Symptoms include tears, blurred vision, redness and a gritty/sandy feeling in the eye. In kids 5 years and older, it’s sports—particularly baseball and basketball—that cause the most eye injuries, resulting in 100,000 doctor visits every year.
What’s the best treatment? Don’t try to remove anything embedded in the eye. And don’t touch, rub or administer ointment—you’ll just increase the irritation. Instead, call your pediatrician, who will let you know whether to rinse the eye with saline solution (if the injury is minor) or seek prompt medical attention. A minor corneal abrasion should heal within five days.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges young athletes to wear sport-specific protective glasses or goggles that have been fitted by a children’s eye doctor or other qualified professional. Protective eyewear can withstand the impact of a ball (or anything else) traveling at 90 miles per hour and prevent 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries. Tell your little shortstop that she’ll still be able to field and hit homers because protective eyewear will not hinder her performance in any way.