On Independence Day, many people look forward to grabbing a picnic blanket and heading to their favorite spot to watch firework displays. However this year many cities are canceling their festivities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, more people may decide to shoot off fireworks at home. If you do purchase fireworks for personal use, please remember to practice proper eye safety.
“Fireworks can cause severe and sometimes irreversible eye injuries. Nearly half of the victims are bystanders and children. It is important to exercise caution when using or watching fireworks of any kind,” says Kara M. Cavuoto, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
Nationwide, more than 10,000 fireworks injuries occur each year. These common eye injuries include burns, lacerations, abrasions, retinal detachments, optic nerve damage, and ruptured eyeballs. About 1,000 of these injuries involve sparklers, firecrackers, and bottle rockets, all of which are frequently and falsely advertised as safe for young children. In fact, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, half of the reported sparkler injuries in 2019 involved children younger than 5.
“Even sparklers can permanently damage the eye,” says Dr. Cavuoto. “Sparklers are not toys, and children should not play with them.”
If the adults in your family decide to have fireworks in the backyard, follow these guidelines to prevent eye injuries:
- Do not fire off homemade fireworks.
- EVERYONE handling fireworks and close bystanders should wear protective eyewear.
- Inebriated people should not handle fireworks.
- Keep a pail of water or a garden hose nearby in case of fire or flames.
- Do not relight or handle a malfunctioning firework. Soak it with water and dispose of it properly.
- Soak all fireworks that have finished burning before throwing them away to prevent a trash fire.
If you are injured by fireworks:
- Get immediate medical help.
- If a particle gets in your eye, do not touch or rub it.
- Do not rinse your eyes.
- If a sharp object enters your eye, do not pull it out. Put a loose bandage on the eye and do not apply pressure. Go to a hospital emergency room immediately.
- Do not apply ointments or take blood-thinning pain medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
It is also important to remember that many states and towns have laws regulating the use of fireworks. For instance, in Florida, people must have a permit to set of fireworks unless it is the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day.
So, rather than risk a fine or eye injury, it may be better to forego the fireworks.
Written by Nancy Moreland. Revised by Natasha Bright.