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Fireworks safety: One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness
By Neil B. Zusman, M.D., FACS Zusman Eye Care Center
June & July are Fireworks Safety Awareness Months
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 happen each year. Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries with nearly 30 percent of these injuries to the eyes. One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
June is Fireworks Eye Safety Month, and through the EyeSmart campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind consumers to leave fireworks to professionals.
Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those 15 years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the U.S. For children under the age of 5, 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.
Abrupt trauma to the eye from bottle rockets cause the most serious injuries. These include eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage and complete blindness.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology urges observance of the following tips:
- Never let children play with fireworks of any type
- View fireworks from a safe distance of at least 500 feet away
- Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely
- Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals
- If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them
- If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately
In the event of an accident, minimize the damage to the eye by following these six steps which can save a child's sight:
- Do not rub the eye. Rubbing the eye may increase bleeding or make the injury worse.
- Do not attempt to rinse out the eye. This can be even more damaging than rubbing.
- Do not apply pressure to the eye itself. Holding or taping a foam cup or the bottom of a juice carton to the eye are just two tips. Protecting the eye from further contact with any item, including a child's hand, is the goal.
- Do not stop for medicine! Over the counter pain relievers will not do much to relieve pain. Aspirin and ibuprofen can thin the blood, increasing bleeding. Go immediately to the nearest emergency room.
- Do not apply oinment. Ointment, which may not be sterile, makes the area harder for the doctor to examine.
- Do not let your child play with fireworks.