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11-year-old sustains corneal oedema from Nerf gun injury

Eye surgeons have urged caution using the toy guns after three patients attended Moorfields Eye Hospital with serious eye injuries

A man holding a Nerf gun

Eye surgeons have called for the use of protective eyewear and age restrictions after three patients sustained serious eye injuries using a popular toy gun.

The authors describe in BMJ Case Reports how Nerf guns caused internal bleeding in the eye in all three cases, with an 11-year-old patient suffering corneal oedema, anterior uveitis, localised angle recession and commotio retinae. The two adult patients had uveitis as well as hyphema.

The patients were given eye drops. Their sight had returned and the bleeding had stopped when they returned for a check-up.

The authors write: "This case series emphasises the seriousness of [eye injury] from Nerf gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eyewear with their use.”

They have called for a review of the safe age limit for Nerf gun use by children.

A statement provided to OT by Hasbro, the company that manufactures the toy guns, highlighted that most Nerf products were for children aged eight or older. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to check the packaging because some products are for older age groups.

The spokesperson emphasised that product safety is of “utmost concern” for the company.

“Nerf products are designed based on years of consumer insights and research, and undergo rigorous reviews and testing to ensure that they are safe and fun to play with, and meet or exceed global standards and regulations,” the spokesperson added.

“Nerf foam darts and foam rounds are not hazardous when used properly. Consumers must never aim Nerf blasters at a person’s eyes or face, should only use the foam darts and foam rounds designed for specific Nerf blasters, and never modify darts or blasters.”

AOP professional adviser, Henry Leonard, told OT  that objects projected through the air at speed have the potential to cause a serious eye injury, and even vision loss.

“The concern here is that parents are not necessarily aware that there is a risk because Nerf guns are presented as a children’s toy – but these cases highlight the dangers,” he shared.

“At the AOP, we advise parents to make sure their children are following the manufacturer’s instructions, and wearing protective eyewear if necessary. If they are unsure what options are available, their optometrist will be able to offer advice on the most appropriate and safest protective eyewear,” Mr Leonard concluded.

Image credit: Helgi Halldórsson