NERF guns can cause serious eye injury, new warning

NERF guns can cause serious eye injuries, doctors warn.
NERF guns can cause serious eye injuries, doctors warn. Photo: Shutterstock

Doctors are warning parents about the dangers of a popular children's toy which has been linked to a number of serious eye injuries. 

According to a paper published this week in the journal BMJ Case Reports, three patients, including one child, presented to emergency departments on separate occasions after being shot at by NERF guns.

All three were in pain, had blurred vision, and were later found to be experiencing hyphema or internal bleeding of the eye, "indicating significant ocular trauma".

The child, an 11 year old, who had been shot in the eye from two metres away, also reportedly developed swelling of the cornea and retina, due to the "force and speed" of the gun's bullet. A 32-year-old man was shot at by a child at a distance of around eight metres, while a 43-year-old woman was hit at an even closer range - from just one metre away.

All three patients were given eye-drops. On follow up, the authors noted that their bleeding had stopped and their vision had returned completely.

"This case series emphasises the seriousness of [eye injury] from NERF gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eye wear with their use," the authors write, adding that the age limit for NERF gun use may also need to be reviewed. While most NERF products are recommended for ages eight and up, others such as the NERF Nitro Motorfury Rapid Rally are for children as young as five.

As well as recommending the use of protective eye wear when playing with the toys, the authors also reinforce the importance of using branded forms of the bullets. One patient, they note, was injured when hit by a generic version of the "darts", which are reportedly harder. 

In a statement issued to CNN Julie Duffy, senior vice president for global communications for NERF's maker, Hasbro Inc, said: "NERF products are designed based on years of consumer insights and research, and undergo rigorous reviews and testing to assure that they are safe and fun to play with, and meet or exceed global standards and regulations. Ultimately, a parent or caregiver knows his or her child best and is best equipped to make decisions on what forms of play and entertainment are most appropriate for his or her child."

A warning on Hasbro's official NERF site cautions consumers not to aim NERF guns at eyes or faces - and not to modify their products in any manner.

"Never modify any NERF blasters or other NERF products," a warning reads. "Use only the darts, water, rounds and discs designed for specific NERF blasters."

Fairfax Media has contacted Hasbro for comment.