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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Eye Safety Tips for Fourth of July Fireworks Celebrations

Posted: 06.28.2016

As the dangers of consumer fireworks can lead to serious eye injuries, including blindness, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Health System urges families to celebrate with caution this Fourth of July holiday.

Last year, a 13-year-old boy underwent eye surgery at Bascom Palmer after being critically injured in a fireworks accident. The boy was riding his bicycle to a friend’s house when someone tossed a lit firecracker at him.

“Fireworks are extremely dangerous, in terms of eye injuries,” said Basil K. Williams, M.D., Chief Resident at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “Each year hundreds of people end up with severe eye injuries and burns from fireworks, and many of the victims are bystanders and children. 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.”

An average of more than 9,000 injuries occur from fireworks each year nationwide. Common injuries to the eye include burns, lacerations, abrasion, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage and ruptured eyeballs. About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers, firecrackers, and bottle rockets, fireworks that are frequently and incorrectly considered safe for young children.

Safety Tips

For those purchasing consumer fireworks in states where they are legal, we recommend the following to prevent eye injuries:

  • Never let children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers
  • Protective eyewear should be worn by EVERYONE handling fireworks and close bystanders
  • 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

If you plan 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

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.
  • Do not apply any ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin.

Stay safe as you celebrate the Fourth of July.