Optometrists often receive “eye-themed” cards and gifts for holidays and birthdays — and we love it. In December, we almost always get something that mentions the movie A Christmas Story. You may remember the film – it’s the one where little Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, and everyone—including Santa!—tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Ralphie’s mom, teacher, and Santa bring up a good point: The gift of sight is one of the most precious gifts we have. It’s up to us to protect it. And there are unique eye injury threats during the month of December that are worth noting.

Here are 8 ways to protect your vision this holiday season:

  1. Take care when cutting your own Christmas tree. If you celebrate Christmas and do so by cutting down your own tree, wear safety goggles or glasses while doing so. Flying chunks of wood and sawdust can lodge in your eye and cause an unwanted holiday trip to the emergency room. Take similar care while loading and unloading the tree from your vehicle.
  2. Daintily decorate the tree. Pine needles are sharp and dangerous when they’re moving around at eye level, such as when tree branches spring forth as netting is removed. Watch young children closely when they’re around the Christmas tree, so they don’t get poked! And if you have an artificial tree, the same advice holds: those tree limbs have pointy ends to avoid.
  3. Beware spray flocking. If you spray artificial snow on the branches of your tree, you are introducing chemicals into the air and should wear safety goggles to prevent eye irritation. Pro tip: Spray flocking is an activity best done outside!
  4. Avoid toy-related injuries. In 2019, the Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that there were 224,000 toy-related injuries, with 46% of those being injuries to the head and neck, which is the most common area affected. Don’t be a statistic!
  5. Read the W.A.T.C.H. List. For 50 years, the World Against Toys Causing Harm, a toy safety organization, has published a list of the year’s 10 most dangerous toys. The 2022 list includes Disney Raya’s Action Adventure Sword, Nerf Pro Gelfire Mythic Blasters, and Black Panther Wakanda Battle Claws —which all have potential to cause eye and face injuries. The list also names other toys that present choking, ingestion, or suffocation risks.
  6. Consider the safety risk of other gifts. It’s clear that gifts such as guns, darts, swords, and anything with a projectile (yes, even soft projectiles, water guns, and water balloons) pose an eye injury risk and should be avoided. Aerosol “silly string” is a chemical that can irritate your eyes. And be warned that laser pointers or toys with bright flashing lights can cause retinal damage if aimed at the eyes.
  7. Give polycarbonate safety glasses. Be proactive and provide your children and other kids in your life with a protective pair of polycarbonate safety glasses or goggles! Safety goggles will protect their eyes when they’re playing sports or enjoying Nerf battles.
  8. Watch out for fireworks and champagne corks on New Year’s Eve! That’s right — the final day of the year brings a final eye safety challenge for the year. Sure, it’s funny when it happens on tv, but a champagne cork to the eye can cause a severe eye injury. Champagne corks reach speeds up to 62 mph when they burst out of the bottle! And sparklers burn at up to 2,000° Fireworks cause an estimated 11,500 trips to the hospital each year — with about 1,200 of those being eye-related injuries. Take safety precautions (and skip sparklers altogether) to ensure that you won’t be one of them!

If you or a loved one do suffer an eye injury from a tree branch, flying projectile, or sparkler, seek immediate medical attention.

As you celebrate this season, we wish you a happy, joyful, and safe holiday with friends and family. We look forward to continuing caring for your precious gift of vision in the New Year!