Fireworks are a favorite part of many July 4th celebrations. But before you break out the sparklers and backyard firecrackers, make sure you know how to protect your vision around fireworks.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology more than 9000 injuries are caused by fireworks each year in the United States. And 45 percent of those injuries happen to children ages 15 and younger.
The eyes are among the most injured parts of the body in fireworks accidents. One out of six times, eye injuries caused by fireworks result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
Bottle rockets can go out of control and cause serious eye injuries varying from scratches on the surface of the eye called corneal abrasions, to actually causing the eyeball to rupture. Other possible injuries include clouding of the lens of the eye known as traumatic cataract, and retinal detachment.
The retina is the inner lining of the eye. Light entering the eye lands on the retina where special cells convert the light to electrical impulses that are carried to the brain by the optic nerve.
A retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the back of the eyeball, similar to wallpaper peeling off the wall. When the retina detaches, it can no longer convert visual signals, and vision is lost in that part of the eye. Damage to the retina or the optic nerve can cause permanent blindness.
Bottle rockets and flying fireworks are not the only hazards to vision. Sparklers actually cause more injuries and can be especially dangerous for children who are allowed to carry them.
A typical sparkler burns at a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. That is one hundred times hotter than the temperature of boiling water. Sparklers are hot enough to melt glass and can cause third-degree burns on the skin, as well as serious damage to the eyes and vision.
All home fireworks have the potential to be dangerous, especially if they are not handled correctly. The National Council on Fireworks Safety shares these tips to protect your family:
• Never let children touch or use fireworks.
• Make sure teens are supervised closely if they are handling fireworks.
• Read the cautions and instructions before using fireworks.
• Only use fireworks outdoors.
• Have plenty of water handy when using fireworks.
• Wear safety glasses or goggles when using fireworks. Make sure everyone watching is also wearing protective eyewear.
• If a “dud” firework fails to go off, never try to relight it. Wait 20 minutes then soak it in a bucket of water to make sure it doesn’t go off by mistake.
• Soak used fireworks in water before placing them in an outdoor trash can.
• Do not try to make your own fireworks or use illegal fireworks or explosives.
• Do not sit while holding a lit sparkler.
• Do not hold a child while holding a sparkler.
• Never hold more than one sparkler at a time.
• Do not run or wave sparklers. Teach children to stay still while holding sparklers.
• Place used sparklers in a bucket of water.
Make sure your Fourth of July is safe and fun for the whole family. Your best bet to protect your vision around fireworks is to go to a professional public fireworks display instead of lighting your own. If someone gets an eye injury from fireworks, get immediate medical help.
American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmologists Warn that Fireworks-Related injuries Can Cause Permanent Vision Loss. Web. July 2, 2013.
National Council on Fireworks Safety. July 4th Fireworks Safety Starts with Common Sense Tips. Web. July 2, 2013.
EyeSmart. July 4th Fireworks Display Safety. Web. July 2, 2013.
Reviewed July 3, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith