Don’t risk your child’s sight with ‘toy’ gel blasters

12 June 2019 

Parents are being warned not to underestimate the dangers of ‘gel blaster’ toy guns, with eight potentially blinding eye injuries treated at the Queensland Children’s Hospital in the past six months.

The impact of these gel ‘bullets’ on the eye can cause damage ranging from bleeding in the eye, increased intraocular pressure (IOP), and corneal scars, to traumatic cataract, ruptured globes to irreversible sight loss.

Even after the injuries heal, some patients can be left with an increased risk of developing secondary conditions (such as glaucoma due to an increase in pressure inside the eye) and may need lifelong monitoring and treatment

The warning follows the publishing of a paper co-written by Queensland Children’s Hospital Director of Ophthalmology, Dr Shuan Dai, in this week’s edition of leading medical journal, The BMJ.

The paper ‘Ocular injuries from gel blasters: not just a harmless toy’, co-written with Dr Rylan Hayes, highlights the need for vigilance, the need for age-appropriate access to the devices and the importance of eye protection when operating them.

Dr Dai said eight children (ranging in age from four to 14 years) presented at the Queensland Children’s Hospital emergency department with eye injuries caused by gel-blaster guns (also known as a water ball or hydro-blaster gun) between December 2018 and May 2019.

“Gel blasters are capable of inflicting significant injury and should not be considered a toy suitable for children,” Dr Dai said.

“A child losing their sight from one of these so-called toys is a scenario that no family wants to face, but it is a very real risk if appropriate protective measures are not taken.

“The eye is a very delicate part of the body and it takes very little trauma to cause major damage when projectiles are involved.”

“His vision returned to normal after two months of treatment, however, he developed develop a clouded area on the lens inside his eye, known as a traumatic cataract, and will require long-term follow-ups and possible cataract surgery to replace the cloudy lens if progressed,” Dr Dai said.

Dr Dai said people of all ages should take the following precautions to protect their eyes when using any sort of toy or device that launches projectiles (including popular Nerf guns):

  • Always use protective eyewear
  • Never aim a projectile at a person’s face.

“If the eye is perforated or has been penetrated, put a plastic shield – like a lid or ramekin, or similar cover – over the injured eye. Do not try to remove the projectile, avoid putting any pressure on the eye and get to the closest hospital emergency immediately.”


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