We all know the famous line “You’ll shoot your eye out!” But when it comes to our kids and nerf gun battles, do we ever really think our kids will end up with a nerf gun eye injury? Of course, we don’t! I consider myself a pretty hardcore mom in lots of areas (big on sleep schedules, super careful with car seat safety, alllll about survival swim lessons) but it never occurred to me that someday I myself could be concerned with what to do when my child has been hit in the eye with a nerf dart bullet.
My kids are blessed with LOTS of cousins and we planned an epic cousin sleepover over Christmas break to kick off the holiday festive fun. I love that the kids and cousins are at ages now that require very little supervision. My sister-in-law and I were in the kitchen talking and my oldest daughter, Britt, came down the stairs very calmly.
That in itself was a sign that something was “off” as Britt tends to be a bit dramatic and usually makes a big scene or production out of even minor injuries, especially if someone else is to blame for them. But she came downstairs and had her hand over her eye and very calmly said that she’d been hit in the eye with a nerf dart bullet.
How a Nerf Gun Eye Injury Occurs
Natural instinct, to me, would say that if something is coming directly towards your eye that you’re body would naturally shut the eye. But in our case that did not happen!
Britt (our 10 year old) and her girl cousins were playing a battle against the boys and she was being brave and said she wasn’t scared of the boys and that they couldn’t hurt her. Her boy cousin is taller than she is and while he didn’t intentionally aim for her face (he felt SO HORRIBLE that this all happened) her bravery combined with the angle in which he shot the nerf gun resulted in the nerf bullet hitting Britt directly into her eye.
Yes, we teach and remind our kids not to aim at the face but accidents happen! Britt was not mad at all at her cousin. They were playing, she knew she was “asking for it” in her bravery and boldness claiming they couldn’t hurt her or beat her in the game they were playing. He also was very innocent in the game play and it just was one of those freak accident things that we never plan for or think will happen to us!
What To Do When Your Child Has Been Hit in the Eye with Nerf Dart Bullet
The most important thing to keep in mind if your child has been hit in the eye with a nerf dart bullet is to take it seriously. Anything to do with vision or the eye isn’t something to play around with or stay casual about. Trauma is trauma and a nerf dart can easily cause permanent damage.
Secondly it is important to STAY CALM. Take it seriously, but do so calmly. No one freaked out. We just calmly looked at Britt’s eye and asked her how it felt, how her vision was affected, and specifics on what happened.
In our case, Britt’s eye was noticeably red, particularly in the iris area almost like her blue eyes were turning red in color. It clearly appeared to be blood. The whites of her eye were also tinted red as was the eyelid and skin surrounding the eye socket.
Staying calm was so important as it also helped us assess the situation. She was able to calmly explain that, yes, her vision was “weird.” Everything looked a bit “fuzzy.” Blurred vision or any sort of vision loss concerning potential eye damage should be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.
What to Expect When Your Child Has Been Hit in the Eye with Nerf Dart Bullet
Fortunately (and also, unfortunately) for us, we’ve had our fair share of eye-related injuries in our family over the years. I had a botched LASIK job, I’ve also had an injury from our pool Polaris spraying directly into my eye, and my father-in-law had a piece of metal go directly into his eye a few years ago. We also had to explore eye concerns when my husband had strange vision issues that ended up in his multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
We know to take eye injuries seriously around here and we also have quite a few local connections with eye doctors in the eye care services industry so we made a few calls and thankfully an eye doctor we trust was able to get her in to be seen within hours of the injury occurring.
I had many people on Instagram DM me saying that they totally would have done a “wait and see” approach after the nerf gun eye injury and usually I’m NOT a rush-to-the-doctor type of mama either. But, again, with our eye injury history, I knew time was a crucial factor in any potential long-term damage. We were extremely blessed to be able to be seen by a professional within an hour of the injury occurring!
My husband took her in for her eye exam. He bragged on how well she handled the appointment. How calm she stayed and how quickly the doctor was able to check her eye health and especially the outer retinal layers as well as the corneal health and eye lens.
They did confirm that the darts damage was direct to her eye and that the red we were seeing was, in fact, blood. They also confirmed that it was crucial to get her in quickly so they were very relieved that we called when we did as the big concern with children and toy guns types of injuries to the eyes is the pressure that can build up and that can be the thing to lead to longer-term issues even more so than the darts themselves.
She had to go to several follow-up visits to check the pressure and healing of the eye as well as administer drops to help avoid infection, keep down that pressure from building, as well as help aid in the eye’s ability to properly heal.
Do not be alarmed when the pupil of the injured eye appears larger for awhile. This is from the steroid drops and will cause the eye to be more sensitive to light but is not to be worried about or a sign of any damage.
In addition, they informed us that just in their eye health office they had sent THREE children to the emergency room just that WEEK in relation to nerf guns and eye trauma. C-razy right? It is a much more common issue and concern than I ever realized!!!
Aftercare for Toy Gun Eye Injuries
Britt was the most upset when she learned what sort of care would need to be taken to ensure her eye wouldn’t have permanent issues. She had to sit and lay upright as much as possible (including sleeping at night) as well as avoid any sort of physical activity.
Elevation is the key to help avoiding blood flowing towards the eye and it was also crucial to avoid anything that may elevate her blood pressure.
She is our MOST active child who loves to play outside and run and, especially, jump on our backyard trampoline. It was also THE very first day of Christmas break. So she’d been excited to have the freedom at home to jump and play but the eye doctor told her she couldn’t be active AT ALL.
No playing outside, no running, and especially no jumping. It was a double tough situation because her eye was uncomfortable and her vision was blurry so she had to rest but yet also couldn’t see well enough to enjoy restful activities like reading or watching tv or having screen time on her iPad. It was a rough time for her!
Thankfully we had just gotten a new mattress in our master bedroom and it has a lift feature that allowed her to sit upright and helped her be more comfortable for some movie watching.
The eye drops she had to use were also uncomfortable and burned a good bit. However, her vision was quickly improved which we were SO thankful for! The eye doctor said that he saw NO vision issues and as long as we followed their instructions they were very hopeful for no permanent damage to her eye or vision.
At first they told us she wouldn’t be allowed to do any activity for about a week. However, we went back to the eye doctor the next morning for her eye exam and got good news! Even though she had struggled to sleep the night prior due to the pain and also having to sleep propped up and even though she said her eye seemed a little “dizzy” the eye doctor gave us amazing news!
After just 24 hours she already had shown a HUGE improvement. We had to continue to do the steroid eye drops in the eye three times a day and she would probably continue to be sensitive to bright light for awhile but she was cleared to lay down to sleep and even resume ALL normal activity! The eye dr said it’s incredible how quickly kids bounce back and heal from even blunt force injuries like these. She had NO more blood in her eye at all. We were so, so thankful!
Part of the eye exam included taking photos of the back of her eyes to make sure both looked the same which they did which was a great sign of the healing taking place! At first, he was a bit concerned about the pressure from the nerf gun eye injury but did a second check and it was fine. The only real thing he said to keep watching out for was any sort of sudden, intense headache because it would be the telltale sign of concerning pressure being present in the damaged eye. If that were to happen we should rush back up to see them but otherwise just keep up with the drops until we checked back in the following week!
Thankfully when we went back for another follow-up visit about a week after her initial injury she was fully cleared and we were able to stop using the steroid eye drops.
As a long-time dry eye sufferer myself, I am concerned that she may face some dry eye issues or other minor concerns over time but the eye doctor felt very confident that there will be no vision damage or any sort of impact from the injury. We were truly so blessed and it could have been much, much worse.
How to Prevent Nerf Gun Eye Injury
If nerf guns stressed you out before then I’m sure reading this post has you wanting to purge them all out of your home or at least swap them out for laser type toy guns instead 😉
And that’s not a bad idea! We have a really awesome laser tag set that my kids love that can offer just as much fun and competition and excitement as nerf guns, without the concern for eye injuries.
If your family is like ours and already owns a million nerf guns and has invested in large packs of nerf darts and nerf bullets then it may be a much easier route to just take the next step and also invest in protective eyewear for your kids and make it a family house rule that if they are going to have a nerf gun battle, then they have to have on the nerf gun glasses 😉
I purchased this nerf goggle set for our kids and it hasn’t been a big deal at all for them to adjust to wearing them. I’m pretty sure they are ALL scared to death of having a nerf gun eye injury now so they are equally concerned and mindful to have them on, no pressure from Mom necessary!
It was funny because our nerf gun eye injury occurred over Christmas break so I bought protective goggles and then we had Christmas and my mother in law also bought ALL of the grandkids a set of protective eyewear too. She bought this set and they are more of a glasses style so easy to put on and off and another great option 🙂
Obviously having continued conversations with your children about nerf gun play safety including how important it is to avoid any aiming towards the face or eyes is important! Eye safety comes first to avoid any serious eye injury in the future.
Nerf Gun Eye Injury: Final Thoughts
I’m very proud of Britt and how she handled this entire experience. While I hate that it happened to her, I’m so thankful that the end result was very minor and nothing too traumatic (no surgery!) or long-lasting (no eye damage!). I also told her that SHE now gets to be the child that other moms use in warning stories for their own children. Anyone reading this post can now say to your kids “I know a girl who had her eye “shot out” with a nerf bullet.” #yourewelcome Hopefully now you also have the info on what to do if your child gets hit in the eye with a nerf dart bullet too!