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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Eye Protection Tips for Fourth of July Fireworks Celebrations

Posted: 07.01.2014

Kendall Donaldson, M.D.
Kendall Donaldson, M.D.

As July 4th celebrations often include fireworks, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute urges families to celebrate with caution this Fourth of July holiday. The dangers of consumer fireworks include blindness, as well as injuries to the head, face, and hands.

“Fireworks are one of the most dangerous activities, in terms of eye injuries,” said Kendall Donaldson, M.D., cornea and external disease specialist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “Each year hundreds of people end up with terrible eye injuries and burns from fireworks, and a lot of the victims are bystanders and children. There is just no way to safely use fireworks at home. Even sparklers can permanently damage the eye. Sparklers are not toys and children should not be holding them. The only safe way to see fireworks is to go to a professional fireworks show.”

If you plant to attend a public fireworks show as part of your July 4th celebration:

  • View the display from at least 500 feet away
  • Respect all safety barriers
  • Follow the direction of local fireman and police
  • Do not touch unexploded fireworks

For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks in states where they are legal, we recommend the following safety tips to prevent eye injuries:

  • Never let children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers
  • Adults handling fireworks and ALL bystanders, including children, should wear protective eyewear
  • Closely supervise older children using 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 them with water and dispose of them properly
  • Soak all fireworks that have completed burning before discarding to prevent a trash fire

Last year, nearly 5,000 consumers were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the four weeks surrounding their Fourth of July holiday due to fireworks injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). More than half of these reported injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. Injuries to the eye include burns, lacerations, abrasion, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage and ruptured eyeballs. About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets, fireworks that are frequently and incorrectly considered safe for young children.

If you are injured from fireworks:

  • Seek medical attention immediately
  • If any particle gets into 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.

Stay safe as you celebrate the Fourth of July.