Fireworks are a summertime staple, especially during the weeks before and after the Fourth of July, but the results of a homemade display can be harmful – and even potentially blinding. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent fireworks injury report found that 14% of all fireworks injuries resulted in eye trauma. In addition, fireworks were responsible for eight deaths and nearly 13,000 total injuries in 2017.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), “fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions, and retinal detachment—all of which can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.”
Don’t let your holiday celebration turn into a trip to the emergency room. Here is a short firework safety video you can watch with the kids, and five tips to keep everyone’s eyes safe this Independence Day:
- Stand back: Be sure to light all fireworks in a clear, open area and watch from a safe distance—about 500 feet away for professional displays and 35–50 feet away when using fireworks at home. Protective eyewear is a must for both the person igniting the fireworks and the audience.
- Keep clear: Avoid leaning over the top of or looking into any fireworks and never light a firework while holding it. Keep your body as far from the product as possible and once lit, move to a safe distance as quickly as possible.
- Beware of duds: If a firework fails to explode, don’t assume it’s safe to handle. Never inspect or attempt to relight any firework that fails to ignite. Have water ready to soak duds and used fireworks before discarding.
- Watch your kids: Even seemingly kid-friendly fireworks like sparklers can result in significant eye trauma as they burn at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (hot enough to melt some metals!). It is best to discourage children from playing with fireworks of any kind and supervise them at all times.
- Leave it to the pros: Of course, the best tip of all is to refrain from using fireworks altogether and take in a professional display instead.
Fireworks-related eye injuries are medical emergencies that require immediate attention. If you need emergency eye care, do not do any of the following before seeking treatment as they may make the injury worse:
- Rub or rinse your eyes
- Apply pressure to the injury
- Remove any objects that are stuck in the eye
- Apply any ointments or take any pain medications
If you need urgent care for an eye injury, head to the nearest emergency room or call 911.