Firework Safety Tips to Prevent Eye Injuries

While you’re planning your family’s patriotic festivities, we want to pass along a friendly reminder to take proper firework precautions to prevent injuries — especially to your eyes — this Independence Day.

Firework Eye-Related injuries

Most firework injuries occur during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July. Hands and fingers are in the most danger, as 31% of injuries occur there, while the head, face and ears account for 22% of injuries. Eye-related incidents account for 14% of all injuries with an estimated 1,200 reported instances in 2017.

“Probably the most common eye injury from a firework is going to be a corneal abrasion, but much more serious injuries can occur, including hemorrhages within the eye, perforation of the eyeball itself, extensive lid burns, vitreous hemorrhage, retinal detachment and even perforation of the eyes,” says Rhea L. Siatkowski, MD, corneal specialist at the Dean McGee Eye Institute. “So, we can’t stress this enough. Fireworks are very dangerous, and injury to the eye caused by fireworks can be blinding.”

Sadly, children under the age of 15 years old accounted for 36% of the estimated injuries in the same report. Keep this in mind while lighting sparklers with younger children. Sparklers can be dangerous, as they burn at more than 2,000 degrees.

A Real-Life Firework Injury from a Dean McGee Patient

In 2016, Rebecka Rich sustained a severe eye injury as a bystander during a 4th of July game in which participants fired roman candles at one another across a small pond. Rebecca thought the firework would fly past her. Instead, the candle suddenly struck her, causing a severe injury to the eyelid, conjunctiva, and cornea of her right eye. Three years later, Dr. Siatkowski is still working with her to overcome the physical damage and loss of vision she suffered.

What To Do in Case of an Eye Injury

First things first, seek medical attention immediately and leave it to the professionals. You can, however, try to cover your eye with a circular object, such as the bottom of a foam cup, and hold it in place with tape to prevent further damage or accidental rubbing.

Whatever you do, do not rub, rinse, or apply pressure to your injured eye. Also, don’t try to remove any objects or apply ointments to your eyes ⁠— simply wait for help to arrive.

How to Keep Your Eyes Safe around Fireworks

There are several things you can do to keep your family safe while watching fireworks. You can start by attending professionally organized firework displays.

“Probably the most important recommendation regarding fireworks is to leave them to the professionals,” Siatkowski says. “Spectators should wear eye protection, especially at private displays. Bottle rockets are potentially a huge threat, and injuries from those to spectators are a very real possibility.”

If you plan on handling fireworks at home, we encourage you to have a safety discussion with your family before you start popping them off. Here are some safety tips we recommend you share.

Keep young children away from lighting and handling fireworks. Most of the time, young children don’t understand the high heats fireworks can put off as well as understand the dangers involved.

For older children, handling fireworks should be permitted only under adult supervision. Also, try to keep horseplay and running at bay while handling fireworks and avoid keeping fireworks in your pockets. The friction could accidentally set them off.

Always light fireworks in a clear area free of trees and leaves, and keep family and friends a safe distance away, preferably 20 feet away. It’s best to keep a bucket of water nearby in case of an emergency.

We recommend wearing eye protection, such as goggles, while lighting fireworks for everyone involved. Sparks or malfunctioning fireworks can even injure bystanders at a firework display. In fact, one-fourth of all eye injuries caused by consumer fireworks happen to bystanders.

Lastly, always read cautions and instructions while performing fireworks and never re-light a dud or malfunctioning firework to protect from unexpected ignition or explosion.

Whatever your Fourth of July plans are this year, please play with caution and keep these safety tips in mind. For more information about eye safety, continue reading through our DMEI Blog section.

 If you would like more information about our eye care services at Dean McGee Eye Institute, feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to schedule an appointment for you.

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