"Nerf" not "Nerve gas."

Of Nerf Guns and Eye Injuries

The temporary injury of a girl whose brother hit her in the eye with a foam Nerf gun dart has made the news, at least in the Daily Mail. Love or loathe them, the fact that they ran a large article and four pictures on this one incident (and remember “incident” is the word we use when nothing much really happened), is a perfect example of the way we look at childhood.

It is always through the lens of what could go tragically wrong, and what we can do to prevent that rare problem from ever happening again. Here you go:

Is your child’s Nerf gun safe? Foam dart from the popular toy leaves girl, 9, hospitalised with a bleed in her eye

EXCLUSIVE: Abigail Earnshaw was hit in the eye by a foam dart from a Nerf gun

It immediately caused a dark patch of blood to slowly form across half of her eye

Luckily the youngster recovered fully and has been left with no lasting issues

But experts warn the popular toys could cause someone to go blind in the future

“Experts warn” has got to be one of the main reasons we don’t let our kids do anything these days. What are they saying here? The fact that something hitting someone in the eye COULD cause blindness? Of course it could. But no where does the article mention this fact, which I found on Thrillist:

Over 445,277,777 darts are made per year

Enough NERF darts have been sold in the past five years alone to circle the earth four times. Some complete nut did the math and found the staggering, complete number of darts NERF has ever made. 4,007,500,000 since the dawn of darts. Wow.

So rather than saying, “Parents, relax! This outrageously popular toy gets kids playing, interacting, and running around,” it found the one in a half-billion time a girl got a temporary eye injury.

That is what parents are up against: A reality-warping view that sees any childhood activity as too dangerous to allow. Is your child’s Nerf gun safe? Is your child’s walk to school safe? Is your child’s ___________ safe? I’ve seen articles on everything from sippy cups to stuffed animals: Are they safe enough?

Hell no! Take more elaborate, expensive, time-consuming, childhood-stifling precautions immediately!

We didn’t get our sons Nerf guns until we saw with our own somehow spared-from-foam-dart-blindness eyes how much fun they had playing with them at their friend’s place. After that, our home became an arsenal.

This doesn’t seem to have made our kids any more violent and they still have both eyeballs. Actually, four eyeballs, between the two of them, knock wood (cautiously, after donning a baseball glove,oven mitt or other hand protection). 

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“Nerf gun” not “Nerve gas.” 

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41 Responses to Of Nerf Guns and Eye Injuries

  1. Richard February 19, 2017 at 7:19 am #

    You don’t want a heavy baseball glove though. Might contribute to carpal tunnel or something.

    More seriously every article like this treats the “risky” activity as if choosing to avoid it had no downsides. They rarely talk about the benefits of increased hand eye coordination reducing the risk of a future car accident, which is a ridiculous example but still more useful than the one they went with.

  2. Mal February 19, 2017 at 7:59 am #

    My 17 month old son bites the tips off of Nerf darts and chews on them. That could be a choking hazard and thus Nerf darts must be far to dangerous for anyone under the age of 25 to touch. Yes that was supposed to be sarcasm. But seriously, my 17 month old is in much more danger of choking on them, than my older kids are of going blind by them, and I still let my older boys use their Nerf guns. Sure, I try to keep the darts away from the baby, but he still manages to get them from time to time.

  3. A Reader February 19, 2017 at 8:13 am #

    I actually have a friend who suffered a broken eye socket from a nerf gun. This happened when we were like 8. Not a fun thing to suffer through, though he’s totally fine now, over 20 years later. The moral of the story? Make sure your kids are aware that nerf guns must never ever be pointed at someone’s face. Other than that, go off and enjoy. The end.

  4. elizabeth February 19, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    Nerf used to be a regular toy for my brothers. Then they graduated to airsoft. The worst injury? A chipped tooth.

  5. lollipoplover February 19, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    My kids have had epic neighborhood-wide nerf gun battles for many years. We’ve never had an eye injury.

    Snow ball fights did produce a few eye traumas but nothing emergency room worthy.
    I guess we should ban snow, too?

  6. Jess February 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    @Mal, that’s why we don’t have nerf guns too. We had bought one of those huge packs and our two yo (at the time) bit the tips off of every single one.

    As an aside, I went blind for three days following giving birth to my first, and I learned that others have permanently lost their vision from childbirth, so I guess we should ban having babies. At least we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not to let our kids play with nerf guns.

  7. Michael Blackwood February 19, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    All kids should be required to wear a formed, protective eye-patch over one eye until they leave college. That way, were one eye blinded, they would have one good eye to get by with. Let’s face it, royalty has always recognized the need for “an heir and a spare.”

  8. Marybeth N. February 19, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    My boys love(d) their Nerf guns and still blow off steam with them from time to time.

    Kids are more likely to trip and fall around their house than getting poked in the eye with a Nerf dart. So does that mean we should “worry” about our kids living in a covered structure?

  9. James Pollock February 19, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

    I don’t think NERF guns had been invented yet when I was a kid… I wanted a BB gun, but my mother wouldn’t buy me one because she thought I’d shoot my sister with it. I totally would NOT have… for at least a week.

    Fun fact… they make NERF guns for girls, now. How do you know they’re for girls? The plastic is a different color.

  10. Jessica February 19, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    My son loves his Nerf guns. I live in the Northeast, and I run with a very progressive, uber-leftie crowd. Most of my friends are therefore… not so fond of toy guns. And because I hate feeling judged, I sort of wish he didn’t have any. But, for better or for worse, my Oklahoman in-laws consistently buy him heavy weaponry for his birthdays. Ive never had any actual fear that he’ll injure someone (or for that matter, turn into Dylan Klebold).

  11. Jessica February 19, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    James–
    Yep, I’m so glad they have pink ones now, so girls don’t feel left out….

    My son converted the neighbor’s three-year-old daughter to being a gun-lover. There is something hilarious about seeing the curly-haired little wisp of a thing in a princess dress, wielding a plastic-and-foam assault weapon.

  12. Ater February 19, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    My oldest shot me straight in the eye with a nerd date from about 3 feet away. It hurt like hell and was pretty terrifying since I had a weird dark spot in my vision for a week afterwards. I took the gun away from him and explained how to use it safely, i.e. don’t point at people’s faces. Then have it back.

    Where’s the news article for that? A lesson was learned and no one overreacted.

  13. Rebel mom February 19, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

    I’m literally laughing bc I was just eye rolling about this last week. A kids group we are a part of held a nerf war last week and every mom forced their kid to wear eye protection suitable to welding. One in a million chance = it could totally happen, I guess. And these were not babies, these were competent 9-14 year olds without mental issues other than the ones being created by their parents.

  14. KB February 19, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

    Nerf guns are not safe… from me.

    I can’t stand the ratchety noise and stupid foam bullets everywhere. I keep threatening to take them all to the dump.

  15. C. S. P. Schofield February 19, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

    Jessica,

    If you don’t give the kid toy guns, he WILL make them, out of whatever he can. That’s how boys (and some girls) are. It’s part of their development. I recommend KILLING MONSTERS, WHY CHILDREN NEED FANTASY, SUPERHEROES, and MAKE BELIEVE VIOLENCE. It’s an eye-opener.

  16. Travis February 19, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

    @Rebel Mom “A kids group we are a part of held a nerf war last week and every mom forced their kid to wear eye protection suitable to welding.”

    Well, at least they were able to play with the guns. And no one shrieks if someone accidentally gets hit in the face. Probably. I’d only make my son wear eye-protection if he was playing against older kids (or that one neighbor kid who purposefully aims for the face), but if that’s what they think is akin to a helmet, well, at least the kids are playing.

  17. Momof8 February 19, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    Next up: an incident involving potential piles of them in landfills and floating in the ocean, putting the eyes out of baby dolphins.

  18. Emily February 19, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

    @James–They always made Nerf guns for girls. I wanted one, during my youth, back in the 90’s (and also a Super Soaker), but my parents didn’t allow toy guns.

  19. Emily February 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

    P.S., I don’t mean that pink Nerf guns existed when I was a kid; I meant that girls don’t just like to play with pink, feminine toys.

  20. Dean February 19, 2017 at 8:38 pm #

    Gotta do something about those sidewalks, too. Just the other day I saw a child trip and fall on a sidewalk crack…Probably suffered a bruise.

  21. James Pollock February 19, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    “I meant that girls don’t just like to play with pink, feminine toys.”

    Assume that I know that, then go back and read my previous comment again.

    (I bought NERF guns for my daughter, back when they only came in one color of plastic)

  22. lollipoplover February 19, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    We let the kids play with nerf guns and supersoakers to their heart’s content, but when my son asked for an airsoft gun, after hearing news reports of police mistaking them for real guns, I refused, telling him they were way too dangerous.

    That weekend, the boys decided to build their own homemade blow dart guns using nails to shoot at each other.

    We bought the damn airsoft gun soon after. No injuries, unless you count vegetables in my garden that he used for targets (I found peppers with pellets in them).

  23. Andrea Drummond February 19, 2017 at 11:14 pm #

    These people will never make it in the zombie apocalypse.

  24. Emily February 19, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

    James, I’m sorry; I was on this site on my phone before, which isn’t as user-friendly as on the computer. I’m sure that, besides me and your daughter, there were many other girls who either wanted, or had, a regular Nerf gun that wasn’t pink, and there are probably girls now who actively choose regular Nerf guns over pink ones. The only reason I can see for buying a pink Nerf gun for a girl who doesn’t have a preference as to colour, is if you have a boy and a girl, and you’re buying them both Nerf guns, and want to make it clear whose is whose. My parents did exactly that the Christmas they bought GT Snow-Racers for my brother and me. His was blue and white, and mine was pink, purple, and black. Yes, it’s possible to label the toys with a permanent marker, but even permanent ink fades over time. But, when we asked “Santa” for GT Snow-Racers, we didn’t care what colours they were. In fact, before I got mine, in pink and purple, I thought they only came in black, so I was expecting a black one.

  25. Dan February 20, 2017 at 2:50 am #

    I am a scout leader (uk based) and we have had some epic nerf battles! Now because I’m not the parent my level of risk aversion does have to be slightly higher than what it would be if it were my children (which I don’t yet have)

    So I did do a risk assessment of the chance of eye injury and decided on 2 viable control measures, 1 would be to insist on not aiming for the head which is fine but in a total melee not always enforceable or practical. 2 was to wear light eye protection (very basic clear plastic safety glasses from the pound shop (dollar store)) ensuring nobody could get hit in the eye accidentally, and as the eye is the only place on the body with any significant risk of injury on being hit by a nerf dart this was deemed suitable countermeasures

  26. JTW February 20, 2017 at 7:39 am #

    My sister won’t let her boys play with them “because they’re guns and guns are bad” (or indeed with water pistols)…

  27. Jenna K. February 20, 2017 at 8:49 am #

    My son got a bleed in his eye sitting in church when his baby sister accidentally whacked him in the eye. Guess church, or baby sisters, are now too dangerous.

  28. Nicole R. February 20, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    “More seriously every article like this treats the “risky” activity as if choosing to avoid it had no downsides. They rarely talk about the benefits…”

    So true!!!

    “Yep, I’m so glad they have pink ones now, so girls don’t feel left out….

    My son converted the neighbor’s three-year-old daughter to being a gun-lover. There is something hilarious about seeing the curly-haired little wisp of a thing in a princess dress, wielding a plastic-and-foam assault weapon.”

    Like a mini Princess Leia!

    My neighborhood had some epic Nerf battles when my son was younger, and all the kids knew that if they aimed for faces, the others wouldn’t let them play next time! We can’t get rid of every tiny risk, but I think the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and great memories with good friends all stack up higher in this case.

  29. Workshop February 20, 2017 at 9:39 am #

    One of the benefits of having children is buying the toys that you really want.

    Nerf guns are one of them.

    I totally want to set up an “Aliens” style automated Nerf gun, connected to a motion detector.

    It’s a great project for parents to work on with their budding technology-savvy children.

  30. mer February 20, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    They could have been playing catch with old fashioned Jarts.

  31. AlanaM February 20, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    How timely. My 17 and 14 yo sons just pulled out their Nerf guns for the first time in 2 years and had a battle.

  32. Willow February 20, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    Heh heh heh! Ater got shot with a nerd date.

  33. Aaron Wiese February 20, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

    Must think safety first..lol be safe..eye wear..

  34. Emily February 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

    Another thing about Nerf guns–not all Nerf guns shoot darts; some of them shoot small foam balls instead. I remember those suction-cup darts, from friends of mine who had Nerf guns, and they didn’t stick well, so a Nerf gun that shoots balls instead of darts might be a bit safer than a Nerf gun that shoots suction-cup darts, without being significantly less fun.

  35. James Pollock February 20, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    “a Nerf gun that shoots balls instead of darts might be a bit safer than a Nerf gun that shoots suction-cup darts, without being significantly less fun.”

    We had both. In terms of choking risk to very small persons (described above), balls would be safer than the darts. In terms of eye injury, though, the balls are about the size of a racquetball… which are known to be capable of serious eye injury. The mass of a Nerf ball is lower, and it’s a LOT harder to get it up to the kinds of velocity that a racquetball can reach, so a Nerf ball isn’t as dangerous as a brisk game of racquetball, but there still is a risk of eye injury that’s probably about the same as for Nerf dart guns. Very, very low, but potentially serious.

    The risk of being hit by the solid plastic of the gun while fighting over its possession is probably higher than the risk from actual projectiles of either type.

  36. Peter February 20, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    Snow ball fights did produce a few eye traumas but nothing emergency room worthy.

    Actually, I received a permanently damaged eye from an ice-ball when I was a youngster. I ended up with one “bad” eye that didn’t see as well as the other. I spent many of my formative years squinting–with one eye–at the blackboard in class before getting glasses. It probably kept me from becoming a famous sports figure, too, now that I think about it.

    And yet, somehow, I managed to survive to a ripe old age with one bad eye. Don’t know how–probably a testimony to my heroic grit and determination. Someday they’ll make an inspirational oscar-worthy film out of my story.

  37. Jessica February 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    Willow–
    “Nerd date” made me chuckle as well.

  38. CrazyCatLady February 20, 2017 at 11:25 pm #

    My youngest, 12, loves Nerf guns and gets them at the thrift shop every chance he can get. He takes them apart and modifies them to make them shoot faster and more accurately. (The guns, not the darts.)

    He does, how ever, wear safety glasses. I am not sure if he picked this up from his friend, or one of the videos that he he watches to learn how to mod the guns. What ever, we have power tools that the kids can use and we have safety gear. If too many kids are here that does mean some are wearing Dollar Tree sunglasses, but that is fine by me too.

    From him wandering over and looking over my shoulder, he just said that when he and his friend decided to have Nerf Wars (with hundreds of bullets,) they just thought it was a good idea to wear safety glasses. He was 11. So…I guess kids can assess situations on their own and make good decisions based on the risk. Besides, it is much more fun to keep playing with your friend than sitting with them while they sob and you repeat over and over that you are sorry you got them in the eye.

  39. James February 21, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

    Last weekend my family went to a fair. Paid $5 to give my kids a few shots with a cork gun. I’d love to see the reaction of these busy-body parents to the sight of an 18 month old holding one of them! I also wouldn’t trade the look of joy on his face when he hit the cup for anything in the world.

    As for making toy guns, my three year old boy made one out of a rice crispy treat. He took a big bite out of one part, which gave him a handle and a barrel. Told him “Don’t point that thing at me again” and let him continue to shoot pretend Moorebots in the living room (a Transformers Rescuebot thing, for the uninitiated). If you think your kids aren’t going to make pretend guns, you’ve never watched a kid play. They will use sticks, food, rubber bands–we used to just use our fingers! It’s part of childhood.

    And if they don’t, they’re making pretend swords out of sticks. Again, speaking from experience. Lot of fun. Lot of blood. At least my kids are growing up around people with the sense to wear armor when they hit each other with sticks, unlike me and my siblings and friends; we just tried to kill each other and were too bad at it to succeed!

    When it comes to risk, I’m far more worried about someone slipping while playing with a Nerf gun than shooting someone with it. Slips, trips, and falls make up the majority of on the job injuries, at least, and I believe it’s comparable for other injuries. Regardless, we all know people who have twisted an ankle or a knee walking. You are literally at more risk RUNNING AWAY FROM a Nerf gun than you are being hit by it. Moral of the story? Stand still and accept your inevitable foamy doom. 😉

  40. Jennifer C February 22, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

    I ran into a fence while playing Red Rover at a friend’s house in 1983–gave myself a black eye and didn’t even go to the doctor for it–my vision managed to survive.

  41. Bob February 25, 2017 at 12:33 am #

    Hah! Not only have people developed NERF sentry guns, they’ve made Airsoft sentry guns! Search YouTube for the videos.

    And at least one guy has figured out how to install a NERF ball shooter in his RC A-10 Warthog model! So yes, we now have NERF-armed “drones!”