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Kid’s Severe Injuries linked to BB Guns, Paintball


A new study says that Paintball, airsoft and BB guns are responsible for causing severe and sometimes life-threatening injuries in children.

"The popular conception is that they are toys," said Dr. Nina Mizuki Fitzgerald, the lead researcher and a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center/Children's Health in Dallas. Not so, she said,   "Injuries can be extremely severe and [children] can have long-term deficits."

Fitzgerald and her team evaluated medical records of children seen at Children's Medical Center Dallas of non-powder gun accidents between 2010 and 2015. In all, 288 children, average age 11, were treated for the gun injuries, more than three-quarters of which involved a BB gun.

About one in four children had to undergo surgery for the injury. Nearly 45 percent had a foreign body injury (such as the BB). About 15 percent were hospitalized. In addition, one in 10 had a functional deficit that interfered with daily tasks, and the overwhelming majority of those were eye-related. Seven children had an eye injury so severe surgeons had to remove the eye, the researchers reported.

"The biggest take-away for parents is that kids should always be supervised when using non-powder guns," Fitzgerald said. And children should always wear eye protection, she stressed.

BB gun pellets often leave a small puncture mark, giving the impression that there is only a minor injury. But Fitzgerald warns parents that these injuries may need medical attention. "There may be a tiny puncture mark, and it doesn't look bad at all. But they can have severe internal injuries," she explained.

The study results are not surprising because they build on previous research that found the same, said Dr. Roberto Warman, director of pediatric ophthalmology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. He has seen many such eye injuries in his years of practice, and recalls having to remove eyes that could not be saved. One child was only 3 years old, he added.

With paintball, kids may think the game is over, take off their eye protection, only to be shot by another child who hasn’t finished the game or shoots one last round. Collecting the paintball guns and then the goggles could help reduce that possibility, he suggested.

While some doctors think these activities should be banned for young children, others think education is the key to fewer accidents.

While it’s easy to think of these objects as toys, they are not. Experts agree that parents need to be informed that their children must wear goggles during the gun play and need to be supervised at all times.

Fitzgerald will present her findings at the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in Washington, D.C. Studies presented at medical meetings are viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: Kathleen Doheny,

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