While there are all kinds of fun community gatherings and festivals this time of year, the celebration of Independence Day can have some downsides. Fireworks can be distressing to pets and to many people – especially young children and those who are elderly or ill or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. As eye care professionals, we are especially concerned about the fact that fireworks are a proven eye injury hazard. Our best advice: leave the fireworks to the professionals.
Remember: Fireworks Are Explosives
Sometimes it can be hard to remember while we're enjoying the spectacle of lights and colorful sparks that fireworks are still explosives. The sparks are incredibly hot and the solid components of the fireworks are blasted in every direction like shrapnel. We should keep this in mind, and maintain a safe distance just like we would with any other type of explosive.
Fireworks Eye Injuries: More Common Than You Think
The statistics surrounding fireworks-related eye injuries are alarming. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, in 2018 there were 91 emergency room visits due to fireworks injuries and nearly a quarter of those were children, often because of sparklers or bottle rockets. All it takes is one errant spark or piece of shrapnel to cause permanent blindness.
Make Safety Your Top Priority
The best way to avoid eye and other injuries from fireworks is to go to a professional fireworks display rather than doing any at home. If you do end up doing fireworks at home, make sure to follow these rules:
- Read the labels. Fireworks you buy have safety instructions on them, such as how far away to stand when they go off. Read these carefully and do what they say.
- Everyone working with fireworks closely should wear safety goggles. These can be the difference between permanent blindness and no injury.
- Carefully supervise young children around fireworks. If they're younger than twelve, they should stay away from all fireworks, including firecrackers and sparklers.
- Use common sense. Bottle rockets should never be aimed at people, for instance.
If Injuries Happen
Sometimes accidents still happen even when we follow all the rules, and if this happens to you or someone you know this year, go straight to the emergency room. Do not rub, rinse, or apply pressure or ointment to an injured eye, just get medical attention as quickly as you can. The sooner the injured eye gets treated, the better the chances of recovery.