Remember the beloved film, A Christmas Story? Nine-year old Ralphie only wants one gift for Christmas – a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass and sundial. The very last present his parents give him is the beloved Red Ryder. Ralphie takes the gun outside, firing at a target perched on a metal sign in the backyard. Unfortunately, the BB ricochets back at him, knocking his glasses off. Ralphie actually thinks he shot his eye out since he cannot see without his glasses. He steps on the glasses while searching for them and they break. He tearfully conceals this fact from his mom, telling her an icicle fell on his face.
Every year, thousands of people including children younger than Ralphie suffer injuries from BB and air guns. These aren’t toys, although I’m certain thousands of people will disagree with me on that. I did not have a BB gun as a kid, but I played with a cool, tooled toy cap gun that used a minuscule amount of gunpowder in the caps. I remember loving the way it smelled.
Back to reality – in 2016, an estimated 15,516 people suffered injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms (ERs) related to air and BB guns, according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) statistics. Of these, 9,459 impacted children 18-years-old and younger. The CPSC does not categorize these guns as toys, however, dart guns (2,124 injuries), blowguns (270 injuries), and cap guns (90 injuries) are classified as toys.
Real-Life 2016 BB and Air Gun Eye Injuries
- A 7-year-old boy was playing outside with friends with a BB gun. He suffered a corneal abrasion and bleeding in his eye when another child shot him in the eye with a BB.
- A 5-year-old girl was playing with her brother when the BB gun ricocheted and struck her in the eye. She was hospitalized with blunt trauma and a penetrating puncture wound in her right eye.
- A 9-year-old boy suffered a corneal abrasion when he was accidently shot in the eye with a pellet gun by his little sister from 2 feet away.
- A 7-year-old boy shot himself in the eye with a BB gun at home, incurring a right eye injury with pain, redness, and nausea.
Although kids today don’t have access to the dangerously fun toys we enjoyed, every year, the CPSC issues warnings and recalls. But beyond toys, seemingly harmless products cause thousands of injuries every year, putting a damper on holiday cheer.
Artificial Christmas Trees
In 2016, Americans spent 2.04 billion on real Christmas trees and 1.86 billion on artificial trees. The CPSC does not report injuries for real trees, plants, or shrubs. In 2016, an estimated 2,211 people were treated at U.S. hospital ERs for injuries relate to artificial trees. Here are a few real life accounts.
- A 58-year-old woman suffered eye pain and a corneal abrasion when a limb of her artificial Christmas tree limb grazed her right eye.
- A 65-year-old man was lucky when he only received a contusion on his arm. While retrieving the Christmas tree from the attic, he crashed through the floor onto the wooden floor below.
- A 56-year-old woman received a contusion when a bowling ball fell on her while she was getting the Christmas tree out of her attic.
- A 10-month-old baby girl lacerated her finger on an artificial Christmas tree while in her baby bouncer.
A November 2014 survey of 1,000 Kmart and Sears adult shoppers indicated 34 percent planned on spending $100 or more that year on holiday decorations. The National Retail Federation which lumps together Thanksgiving and Christmas, estimates on average, $78 will be spent on decorations for these two holidays in 2017. This includes items other than ornaments and Christmas lights. The CPSC has a category called seasonal decorations which includes ornaments and a separate one for lights. In 2016, an estimated 1,919 people were treated for injuries related to holiday decorations. Here are a few that apply only to Christmas ornaments.
- A 1-year-old baby boy slipped on the floor at home and a glass ornament shard cut his right heel.
- A 3-month-old baby boy put a small Christmas tree ornament into his right ear and it had to be removed at the hospital.
- A 35-year-old man ran into a wreath and a branch went into his eye, causing pain and a corneal abrasion.
- A 10-year-old boy threw something at an artificial Christmas tree, knocking an ornament down on his face, which caused a laceration.
- A 25-year-old woman fell off a stool while hanging decorations, suffering a laceration on her chin.
According to 2016 CPSC figures, an estimated 2,282 people were treated for injuries related to Christmas lights. Climbing on ladders and step stools to hang lights is a common way in which people are injured. In fact, ladders caused an astounding 174,925 injuries serious enough to be treated at U.S. hospital ERs in 2016, while step stools resulted in 30,770 injuries.
- A 12-year-old boy lacerated his right hand when taking down Christmas tree lights.
- A 41-year-old man was taking down Christmas lights when he slipped onto the tree stump, lacerating his left forearm.
- A 2-year-old boy swallowed a small glass LED Christmas tree light bulb.
- A 38-year-old woman was standing on a chair putting up Christmas tree lights. She fell on her rear end and received a contusion.
- A 54-year old man was hanging outdoor Christmas tree lights, the ladder fell and hit a power line pole. He was admitted to the hospital with electrical burns to his hands and feet.
- A 7-year-old boy was running, slipped, and landed on a Christmas tree light, suffering a laceration on his rear end.
- A 47-year-old man tumbled off a ladder while hanging Christmas lights. He was admitted to the hospital with fractures to both ankles and foot injuries.
In 2015, Americans spent an estimated $3.2 billion on candles, not including accessories. About 35% of candle sales occur during the Christmas/winter holiday season. I’ll never forget when a RISD freshman caused significant damage to her room in the same dorm I called my home the year before. She lit a Hanukkah menorah and while she was at one of her classes, it tipped over. It is a stroke of luck she didn’t burn down the dorm and no one was injured! You’d think people would have the common sense to not leave lit candles unattended in precarious places, especially when they aren’t home! In 2016, 9,809 people incurred injuries treated at U.S. hospital ERs related to candles and holders.
- A 2-year-old girl suffered a burn to her left thigh when a candle fell over and her clothes caught fire.
- A 38-year-old woman was lighting candles when the back of her nightgown caught fire. She was hospitalized with burns to her torso and hands.
- A 29 year-old woman suffered a corneal abrasion when she splashed candle wax into her left eye.
- A 16-month old baby boy was hospitalized after drinking a liquid candle containing petroleum hydrocarbons at home.
- A 14-year-old boy was using a butane lighter to light a candle when it exploded in his hand. He was hospitalized with an open fracture to his finger.
Holiday Injury Prevention Tips
- Secure loose electrical cords and put away toys and any other items that are lying around
- Do not use recalled lights, toys, or other products – discard or take back to the store
- Never leave lit candles unattended
- Keep baby cribs, bouncers, and other furniture away from windows and Christmas trees
- Store products in easy-to-reach places; use stepstools/ladders only when absolutely necessary
- Make sure ladders are stable and secure before using them
- Do not let children engage in activities or play with toys or products inappropriate for their age
- Supervise younger children at all times
- Inspect and remove debris and ice from walkways, driveways, porches, and yards
- Never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or ride as a passenger with anybody else who is under the influence
A moment of distraction, hastiness, or carelessness can not only ruin holiday cheer, but lead to a life-altering injury. Use common sense and follow the above precautions … wishing you a joyous and safe holiday season!