I had a patient once, a college student, who came to me because while babysitting his niece and nephew, he’d gotten shot in the eye. This wasn’t any bullet, however. It was a BB pellet: small, round, hard, and made of plastic.
I still remember him moaning in pain and asking if he was going to lose his eye. “It was just an airsoft gun,” he said. “It’s for kids, for crying out loud!”
These “children’s” guns are made to look like nearly identical copies of the “real deals”—handguns and semiautomatic rifles, that is. These non-powder weapons, like airsoft guns, BB guns, and paintball guns, don’t use gunpowder to fire. Instead, compressed air or springs propel plastic pellets as fasting as 400 feet per second.
They’re extremely cheap, extremely easy to get, and extremely popular. They’re sold at big-box retailers from Amazon to Walmart for prices from $25 to $350. Use has gone up meteorically in the last few years, and not coincidentally, so has the number of eye injuries in children. These injuries have risen over 500 percent in the last few years. (In fact, 3,000 children were treated in emergency rooms for related injuries in 2012 alone.)
About 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented by wearing correct protective eyewear, like ski goggles or a paintball mask. Otherwise, you risk injuries like retina damage or hypetheme or bleeding within the eye. The latter can usually heal without intervention, but makes the victim more susceptible to eye disorders like glaucoma in the future.
The next time that you’re at a New Jersey airsoft range like Frontier Fortress, SoftAir NJ, or Stryker Airsoft Indoor Arena, remember the classic movie A Christmas Story. Ralphie Parker is dying to find a Red Rhyder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle under the tree but is dismayed to here from everyone that he’ll “shoot his eye out.”
He doesn’t believe them and plays with the toy without goggles, then on his first try hurts himself and panics that he has indeed shot his eye out.
Your eyes are one of your most precious tools. You use them to read the world’s masterpieces, to take in information about your surroundings, to communicate your emotions without saying a word. It seems like a true shame to lose or damage them by simply choosing not to wear safety goggles.
In the meantime, here are some tips to follow to prevent airsoft eye injuries:
- Come to OCLI right away, even if it seems like a minor injury. Eyes are sensitive, and it can be hard for a non-professional to assess the damages.
- Don’t ever lift the seal on your goggles while on the course. No questions, no exception.
- Do not touch, rub, or apply pressure to the eye.
- Don’t try to remove anything stuck in the eye. For small particles, tell the child to blink frequently so tears can flush out the particle. If not, close the eye and seek treatment immediately.
- Do not apply medicine or ointment yourself.
If you ever hurt yourself while playing with an airsoft gun, come to the pros at OCLI to take care of it. What’s your favorite place in New Jersey to shoot airsoft guns near Dr. Silverman’s office? Let us know in the comments below!