With Fireworks, Eye Safety Is Key

Eye safety necessary to reduce high rates of eye injury from fireworks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D

(RxWiki News) Fireworks can be fun and pretty, but lighting fireworks at home means you’re literally playing with fire. Eye injuries have been a far too common result of fireworks.

As we near the 4th of July holiday, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has released a safety advisory concerning the use of fireworks.

Every year, there are many, often serious, firework-related eye injuries. With that in mind, the Academy recommends protective eye wear, adult supervision and a distance of 500 feet between people and lit fireworks.

"Wear protective glasses when handling fireworks."

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has released an eye safety advisory for Americans as they gear up to celebrate the 4th of July.

"The Academy asks parents and other adults to exercise caution when handling fireworks themselves and to be especially diligent in managing and monitoring their use by children," the American Academy of Ophthalmology stated in a recent press release.

According to the Academy, more than 9,000 firework-related injuries happen every year in the US, with roughly 45 percent of those injuries occurring in kids 15 years of age and younger.

The Academy also reported that eye injuries have been among of the most common fireworks-related injuries and one in six of those eye injuries ends in blindness or permanent vision loss.

The Academy noted that sparklers can be among the most potentially hazardous fireworks because they burn around 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to cause a third degree burn — and are often lit and then held in a person’s hand until they burn out.

Second on the list of potential hazards are bottle rockets. A bottle rocket that goes out of control could cause a number of injuries, from a scratched or burned cornea to a detached retina — both important parts in the eyeball that are necessary for proper sight.

In a worst-case scenario, the eyeball could burst or the optic nerve could be damaged due to a firework accident, resulting in total blindness.

Christopher Quinn, OD, president of OMNI Eye Services and dailyRx Contributing Expert, said "Enjoy the celebration of our country’s birth but do so safely especially when handling fireworks. Wearing protective lenses (plastic or polycarbonate) can offer some protection but your best protection is to leave fireworks handling to the professionals."

Dr. Quinn added, "Also, use caution when viewing fireworks displays especially when downwind. Occasionally embers or ash from fireworks displays can get into the eyes of viewers causing burns or corneal abrasions."

These concerns do not mean you cannot enjoy fireworks during the holidays. First and foremost, the Academy recommends that people leave the handling of fireworks to professionals and visit a public fireworks display on the 4th of July.

However, for people that choose to purchase and use fireworks at home, the Academy suggested the following safety practices:

  • Have everyone wear protective eyewear — sunglasses or safety glasses would work.
  • Keep fireworks out of the hands of small children.
  • Have adults supervise older children handling fireworks.
  • Don’t use fireworks around any other flammable materials.
  • Make sure people view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Don’t attempt to set off professional-grade fireworks.

The Academy recommended that people call 9-1-1 immediately in case of an emergency and to seek treatment from an ophthalmologist or optometrist for any eye injuries.

"It’s crucial that the public understand the potentially devastating dangers that backyard fireworks shows can present. The American Academy of Ophthalmology urges parents and responsible adults to be especially vigilant about these risks if children are in the presence of fireworks and follow appropriate safety tips to reduce the risk of eye injury," said Philip R. Rizzuto, MD, communications secretary for the Academy.

This safety information was made available in June on the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 29, 2013
Last Updated:
July 30, 2013