Cautions for Fireworks and Eye Safety in July
Ophthalmologists, doctors, and nurses everywhere caution the public on the eye-safety risks of fireworks. These firecrackers, sparklers, and assorted explosive devices are used by various cultures to celebrate holidays and special occasions. We always caution, “Leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals.”
Even pyrotechnic professionals and first responders can experience eye-safety concerns relating to spectacular fireworks shows. The offices of Glenn K. Davis, II, M.D., cannot understate the occurrence of eye injury connected to fireworks. All too often, eye damage from fireworks and associated explosives can be devastating, as well as avoidable. Let’s take a look at what can happen to our eyes during fireworks displays.
What Can Happen to Eyes During Fireworks Displays?
With so many cultures regularly using fireworks, it may not be surprising to find that there are studies in many languages. Doctors and eye care experts around the world would like everyone to focus on being safe bystanders. Here in the U.S., we feel that setting off firecrackers and rockets is part of our American heritage for every patriotic celebration, holiday, and more. What can happen to our eyes during a fireworks display?
Firstly, a recent Consumer Product Safety Commission report found that 19 percent of fireworks injuries were eye injuries. In severe cases, fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye. Additionally, they cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions, and retinal detachment. These types of serious eye injuries can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.
According to the data reported by the commission’s annual fireworks injury report in 2018, fireworks caused five deaths and 9,100 injuries. Nearly two-thirds of the fireworks injuries treated in emergency rooms happened between mid-June and mid-July. This is often the time of year when we advertise fireworks like toys around the country.
Significant Impact of Fireworks on Eye Health
While many people may think they know how to safely handle them, playing with fireworks can blind you or your loved ones. Again, we stress: Leave fireworks displays to the professionals.
Consider this article as your local message about the importance of fireworks eye safety. From the smallest firecrackers and sparklers to larger rockets and other explosives, all can have a significant impact on your eye health. Dr. Davis and his staff want everyone who seeks to enjoy fireworks or other pyrotechnic exhibits to be aware and take appropriate caution and care.
Some Common Types of Fireworks
Real People, Real Injuries from Fireworks
Meanwhile, consider these headlines on the dangers of fireworks:
- Fireworks Nearly Cost Firefighter His Sight
- Woman’s Vision Saved After Devastating Fireworks Injury
- Firework Blinds Teenager, Severs Hand
- Teen Blinded in One Eye by Fireworks
Children’s Eye Injuries Due to Fireworks – Prevention and Care
We know children and young adults are frequent victims of eye injuries due to fireworks. Children under age 15 accounted for 36 percent of all the injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report. Half of the injuries requiring an emergency room visit were to people under the age of 20.
Even “smaller” fireworks like sparklers can be dangerous in young hands, as they burn at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Sparklers were responsible for 1,200 of the injuries in the latest report. A sparkler mishap caused one of the fireworks deaths reported in 2017.
The people injured by fireworks aren’t necessarily handling the explosives themselves. In fact, 65 percent of people injured by fireworks were bystanders, according to another study. Notably, children and adults not handling fireworks themselves can be in as much danger as the people actually lighting fireworks.
What is the best thing to do for a fireworks injury?
What to Do for a Fireworks Eye Injury
Fireworks-related eye injuries can combine blunt force trauma, heat burns, and chemical exposure. Therefore, if an eye injury from fireworks occurs, it should be considered a medical emergency. Follow these interventions if injury occurs:
It is important to seek medical attention immediately, and do not:
- Rub your eyes.
- Rinse your eyes.
- Apply pressure.
- Remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
- Apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, unless directed by a doctor.
Bystander Safety: Use Caution When Attending Fireworks Shows
As mentioned earlier, the best way to avoid a potentially blinding fireworks injury is by attending a professional, public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for home use. These often provide an impressive display with added, built-in safety measures. Likewise, if you attend or live near a professional fireworks show, here are a few safety guidelines:
- Respect safety barriers, follow all safety instructions, and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
- Do not touch unexploded fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.
Fireworks Safety Tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission
For those who decide to purchase and use consumer fireworks in states where they are legal, be sure to follow these safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Firstly, do not allow young children to play with fireworks. Sparklers – a firework often considered by many to be the ideal “safe” device for the young – burn at extremely high temperatures. Therefore, young children should not handle them. Children may not understand the danger involved with fireworks and may not act appropriately while using the devices or in case of emergency.
- Permit older children to use fireworks only under close adult supervision.
- Additionally, do not allow any running or horseplay with fireworks or around displays.
- Set off fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from houses, dry leaves, grass, and other flammable materials.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that fail to ignite or explode.
- Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning or “dud” fireworks. Soak them with water, and throw them away.
- Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Never light fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
- Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
- Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
- Check instructions for special storage directions.
- Most importantly, be sure to observe local laws.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
- Finally, do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
Information adapted from these sources:
For excellence in eye care, schedule your appointment with Glenn K. Davis, II, M.D., today at our offices in Pulaski, VA, (540) 980-1965, or Galax, VA, (276) 236-8307. Be sure to revisit our blog for future updates and stay in touch by liking us on Facebook.