Each Fourth of July, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries occur each year. Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries with nearly 30 percent of these injuries to the eyes. One-fourth of firework eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
July is Fireworks Eye Safety Awareness Month, and through its EyeSmartTM campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds parents to leave fireworks to professionals.
"Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident," said Marguerite McDonald, MD, a clinical correspondent for the Academy. "Potentially blinding injuries can be avoided if families attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a home fireworks display."
Children most common victims
Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those fifteen years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn.
"Among the most serious injuries are abrupt trauma to the eye from bottle rockets," according to Dr. McDonald. The rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage, and complete blindness.
Fireworks safety tips
For a safe and healthy Independence Day celebration, the Academy has the following tips for parents:
- Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
- View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
- Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
- Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
- Follow directives given by event ushers or public safety personnel.
- If you or your child finds unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.
- If you or child suffers an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.
Posted June 23, 2011; updated June 26, 2012