While decreasing over time, product-related eye injuries in children still warrant further precaution. Photo: Getty Images.

With varying categorizations of consumer products, it’s unclear how trends in eye injuries, specifically in children, have evolved over time. A recent study aimed to investigate characteristics and trends in children 18 and younger treated in US emergency departments for consumer product-related eye injuries.

More than 1.4 million children were treated for consumer product-related eye injuries during the 23-year study period, averaging 63,186 children annually. Overall, the eye injury rate per 100,000 children 18 and younger increased initially from 82.64 in 1997 to 104.53 in 2001 and then decreased by 32.1% to 70.95 in 2019. Almost two-thirds (64.5%) were boys, and 32.1% were five and younger.

Compared with other age groups, a greater proportion of children between the ages of 10 and 14 were admitted to the hospital, which may be related to the mechanisms of injury predominating in this age group, including contact with a non-chemical product (50.4%) and sports or other recreational activities (35.7%).

More than one-fifth (22.2%) of eye injuries involved sports or recreational activities—with basketball and baseball topping the list—which is similar to previous research reporting sports as a common source of eye injury.

The overall rate of sports or recreational activity-related eye injury fluctuated over the study period with a decrease observed from 2000 to 2011, which was likely influenced by the reported decrease in participation in many youth sports nationally, as well as the use of more protective face wear and shields.

Overall, 2.6% of patients were admitted, but injuries involving non-powder firearms and golf had the highest admission rates (18.8% and 14.7%, respectively).

The rate of eye injuries related to non-powder firearms increased from 1997 to 2006, then decreased from 2006 to 2019. “The increase in the early part of the study period is consistent with findings of other studies, with most injuries occurring among children between the ages of six and 12 and at home,” the authors wrote. “The decrease observed during the latter study years may be related to implementation of safety standards and regulations.

Contact with a non-chemical product was the leading mechanism of eye injury in all age groups, except children five and younger, in which contact with a chemical product was most likely to cause ocular injury (34.2%). Corneal abrasion was the most frequent diagnosis across all age groups (36.5%).

“Although the rate of consumer product-related pediatric eye injuries treated in US emergency departments has decreased since 2001, these injuries remain common among children. Therefore, increased prevention efforts are needed,” the authors concluded.

Chen T, Kistamgari S, Smith GA. Consumer product-related pediatric eye injuries treated in United States emergency departments. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. October 2, 2022. [Epub ahead of print].