Top eye specialists have warned of serious injuries that can be caused by popular kids toy, the Nerf gun.
Specialists from the Moorfields eye hospital have written in the BMJ Case Reports after treating several people for eye injuries caused by the 'soft' bullets fired from the gun.
Staff at the hospital treated three separate patients, two adults and a child who came in with pain and blurred vision all caused by internal bleeding in the eye.
One of the three patients, an 11-year-old, had also developed swelling of the outer layer of the eye (cornea), and the inner layer of the eye (retina), from the force and speed of the bullet fired by the gun.
The authors warned that a projectile travelling at high speed can cause irreversible vision loss and recommended that people should protect their eyes when playing with these guns.
And they say that people playing should be wearing protective eyewear and age limits should be considered for the toy.
Specialist Registrar at the hospital, Mukhtar Bizrah said: "Sports in which the risk of trauma is relatively high, such as squash ball, have seen an introduction of protective eyewear in the UK.
"This case series emphasises the seriousness of eye injury from Nerf gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eyewear with their use."
As well as the child, a 43-year-old woman and 32-year-old man were also treated over a three month period after being shot in the eye by children.
Mr Bizrah added: "The resultant trauma from the Nerf gun has been sufficient to cause hyphema in all three patients.
"This case series emphasises the seriousness of ocular injury from Nerf gun projectiles and calls into consideration the need for protective eyewear with their use.
"It also calls for reconsideration of the safe age limits for Nerf gun use for children."
The patients were given eye drops, and when they went for their check-ups their sight had returned completely and the bleeding had stopped.
One of the injured patients commented that the bullets, also known as darts, were generic versions and were harder than the branded versions.
Mr Bizrah said: "One of the patients in our case series reported that they eye was shot by a Nerf gun bullet that was purchased online.
"The price of 10 official labelled bullets was equivalent to the price of 100 unlabelled brand bullets.
"The bullets were sent to us by the patient. It was apparent on digital examination by
the two authors of this case series that there is an obvious difference in the firmness of the Nerf gun bullet head.
"The unlabelled brand by which the patient was injured was more firm. There is no evidence that had the patient been shot with the official Nerf gun bullets supplied by
the gun supplier that the injury would have been less severe.
"Moreover, the use of protective eye wear is strongly encouraged, as the true scale of ocular injuries due to Nerf guns maybe under-reported.
"Finally, this case series highlights that there is a difference in the hardness of the range of Nerf gun bullets available for sale, which parents may not be aware of."
What the makers of Nerf say
"Product safety is of utmost concern at Hasbro," a Hasbro company spokesperson said, adding that Nerf foam darts and rounds are not dangerous when used properly.
"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.
"Nerf foam darts and foam rounds are not hazardous when used properly. Consumers must never aim Nerf blasters at a person’s eyes or face, should only use the foam darts and foam rounds designed for specific Nerf blasters, and never modify darts or blasters. There are darts available to buy claiming to be Nerf compatible, however these darts are not Nerf-branded and may not meet safety standards and regulations.
"Most of our Nerf product line is age graded 8+, but we encourage parents and caregivers to read the packaging because some blasters are graded for older consumers.
"It’s important to note that the Nerf brand encourages parents and caregivers to be involved in aspects of their children’s development, including play. 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."