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Doctors warn: Nerf guns can cause serious eye injuries

A child playing with a Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire. Experts from the UK's leading eye hospital said the bullets can cause internal bleeding. Picture by Jonathan Brady/PA
Jane Kirby, Press Association

NERF guns - a popular toy across the UK - can cause serious eye injuries, doctors have warned.

Experts from the UK's leading eye hospital said bullets from the guns and blasters could cause internal bleeding around the eye as well as problems such as blurred vision.

They suggested that children and adults who play with the guns should wear protective eye goggles, and called for "reconsideration of the safe age limits for Nerf gun use in children".

Nerf toys, which are manufactured by Hasbro, include a range of guns, blasters, and bows and arrows aimed at children aged eight and over.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), A&E medics from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London told how three patients suffered injury from the guns in separate incidents. All suffered internal bleeding.

One 32-year-old man was shot in the eye from eight metres away by a child with a Nerf gun. He suffered blurred vision and a red eye.

A 43-year-old woman was shot in her right eye from a distance of one metre and complained of blurred vision and a red, sore eye.

An 11-year-old child also suffered a shot in his right eye from a distance of two metres.

The child complained of pain and blurred vision.

He developed swelling of the outer layer of the eye (cornea), and the inner layer of the eye (retina), from the force and speed of the bullet fired by the gun.

All the patients were examined and given eye drops, the researchers said.

Check-ups in the following weeks showed that their sight had returned completely and the bleeding had stopped.

The authors said that while there was a good outcome for these three patients, the ability of Nerf guns to cause problems was worrying and could lead to long-term vision loss.

They said: "This case series emphasises the seriousness of ocular injury from Nerf gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eyewear with their use.

"It also calls for reconsideration of the safe age limits for Nerf gun use in children."

The authors also pointed out that one patient had told them that non-branded, cheaper bullets that fit Nerf guns are on sale.

Examination of these bullets showed them to be harder than the ones made by Hasbro - something parents may not be aware of.

The team said: "One of the patients in our case series reported that they eye was shot by a Nerf gun bullet that was purchased online.

"The price of 10 official labelled bullets was equivalent to the price of 100 unlabelled brand bullets. The bullets were sent to us by the patient.

"It was apparent on digital examination by the two authors of this case series that there is an obvious difference in the firmness of the Nerf gun bullet head.

"The unlabelled brand by which the patient was injured was more firm.

"There is no evidence that had the patient been shot with the official Nerf gun bullets supplied by the gun supplier that the injury would have been less severe.

"It was not possible for the other two patients to confirm whether or not the eye was shot by a labelled or unlabelled Nerf gun bullet."

The authors said that customer reviews of these non-branded bullets "state that the tips are made of harder plastic, and hurt more, especially at close range".

Numerous online videos also show children how to modify their guns to make them shoot harder, faster and further distances.

The authors said that no safe distance for avoidance of significant eye trauma can be established from the cases seen.

They added: "It is important to note that the risk of having an eye injury with the Nerf darts also comes from the fact that a projectile can harm when it travels fast enough."

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