The Fourth of July is drawing near and barbecue preparations are under way. Fireworks are a traditional part of Independence Day celebrations, but they can also be dangerous.
Sadly, children and teens are too often hurt by fireworks.
Of the 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year, 21 percent are eye injuries and more than half of the victims are young children or teenagers. For example:
• A 6-year-old child’s eye was severely injured after he lit an M-80 firework that he found in his home. He called 911 and underwent an immediate cornea transplant and lens replacement, and required several additional eye surgeries.
• A 12-year-old boy forgot to unwrap the fuse of a fountain firework, making the fuse too short. It exploded almost immediately and blew up in his face, severely injuring his eye.
• After a man lit smoke bombs that created colored smoke, his 4-year-old son leaned in to get a closer look. Tar from the smoke bomb wick shot into the boy’s eye, causing a corneal abrasion.
“Our eyes are one of the most important parts of our bodies - but they are also very fragile,” said John A. Wells III, M.D., president of the South Carolina Society of Ophthalmology. “Unfortunately, we see a spike in injured patients this time each year because people forget that fireworks, while fun, are also dangerous. Kids are especially vulnerable to fireworks hazards.”
Even sparklers are dangerous. Sparklers typically burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and cause 27 percent of all fireworks injuries, including third-degree burns. Bottle rockets cause some of the most serious eye injuries. Errant bottle rockets can injure bystanders and cause eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, and complete blindness. One in every six fireworks-related eye injuries results in permanent vision loss or blindness.
To prevent eye injuries, follow these EyeSmart tips:
• Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
• View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
• Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
• Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
• If you find unexploded fireworks, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.
If you experience an eye injury during a fireworks accident, seek immediate medical help.
For more fireworks safety tips or to find an eye M.D. in your area, visit www.geteyesmart.org.