Aerosol sprays a hazard to kids’ eyes

BROWN (US) — Children account for more than half of emergency room visits for eye damage caused by aerosol spray cans, evidence that they remain susceptible to preventable injuries from consumer products.

In a new study of hospital visits from 1997 to 2009, 5,927 children 18 and younger were treated for eye injuries, including 2,830 children ages 0 to 4. A total of 10,765 were treated in all age groups.

“Any kind of injury like this that is preventable, we’d love to know more about,” says Paul Greenberg, a clinical associate professor of surgery at Brown University. “Anytime you are talking about a pediatric eye injury, that’s especially disconcerting.”

“This is part of a larger picture of household product injuries in children, which are something of importance and something to look out for,” says lead author Carly Seidman, a fourth-year medical student.

Details of the study are reported online in the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

The total number of injuries may be underestimated, because the study focuses exclusively on emergency room cases, and doesn’t take into account treatment at clinics, doctor’s offices—or at home, where more than 70 percent of the accidents occur.

The most common way people are injured is by self-inflicted spray, although the cans at times burst. Males of all ages account for 63 percent of those injured. The nature of the damage includes irritation, chemical burns, and scratches and bruises on the eyeball.

Spray paint, personal hygiene products such as hairspray, cleaning products and bug sprays are the main culprits. Pepper spray injuries are very rare but in every case the victim is a child.

Measures that go beyond the small warning labels required on cans can help reduce injuries, Seidman says.

Larger labels, increasing the counseling pediatricians give parents about aerosol can storage, and asking hardware stores to consider featuring goggles in the aisles where spray paint is sold should be considered.

Because spray cans are often brightly colored, and have smells that children may find attractive, parents need to use extra caution, Seidman says. “Make sure these products are kept out of the reach of children and always remember eye safety.”

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