In the beloved holiday movie, "A Christmas Story," Ralphie attempts to convince his parents and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun is the perfect Christmas gift. They all reject his pleas with the same warning: "You'll shoot your eye out." While you may not literally shoot your eye out, a study in Ophthalmology Retina, a journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, shows that BB and pellet guns do blind children every year.

The number of eye injuries related to such nonpowder guns are increasing at an alarming rate. Another study published earlier this year showed an increase of almost 170% over the last 23 years. If toy guns are on your shopping list, Zusman Eye Care Center and the American Academy of Ophthalmology urge you to also give the gift of protective eyewear. Protective eyewear and proper guidance make BB, pellet and paintball gun activities safer for children.

To prevent eye injuries, ophthalmologists share the following tips.

• Buy the proper eye protection. Always wear eye protection that meets appropriate national standards when using nonpowder guns.

• Get a target. Have children shoot BB and pellet guns at paper or gel targets with a backstop to trap BBs or pellets.

• Educate children. Teach them proper safety precautions for handling and using non-powder guns.

• Be present. Ensure that there is always appropriate adult supervision.

• Know what to do (and what not to) if an eye injury occurs. Seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist. As you wait for medical help, make sure to never to touch, rub, apply pressure, or try to remove any object stuck in the eye.

“Ophthalmologists see firsthand the devastating damage toy guns can inflict on the eyes; children are blinded,” said Dianna Seldomridge, M.D., MBA, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The good news is, most of these injuries are avoidable. Protective eyewear and adult supervision make non-powder gun activities much safer for children. If you can’t resist the Ralphies in your life, buy protective eyewear.”

“Prevention is key to avoid a life altering ocular injury,” emphasizes Dr. Neil Zusman.

Zusman Eye Care Center is at 3430 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte. For more information, call 941-624-4500.

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