Every year on Independence Day, nearly 2,000 fireworks-related eye injuries occur in the United States. Of these, about 25 percent result in blindness or permanent vision loss.
As an ophthalmologist for Via Christi Clinic, I have seen plenty of serious eye injuries while covering emergency ophthalmology cases for Wichita on the Fourth of July. I have treated toddlers who ran into sparklers, one of whom burned a hole through his eyelid, and patients with internal bleeding of the eye from fireworks exploding and hitting them in the eyes. I have also seen patients lose an eye as the result of checking on unexploded fireworks.
Preventing an eye injury is much easier than treating one — and certainly less painful. Here are some key facts and tips to make this Fourth of July a safe one:
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• 75 percent of eye injuries happen to teenage boys.
• 75 percent of injuries to children under age 5 are from sparklers, which burn at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to melt gold!
• 25 percent of eye injuries happen to bystanders.
• The most dangerous firework is the “bottle rocket” (now outlawed in many areas), which can explode and shower victims with shards of metal and glass.
• Let trained professionals light the fireworks.
• Always have adult supervision.
• Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby.
• Wear protective eyewear or sunglasses when lighting or standing near explosives.
• View fireworks displays from at least 500 feet away.
• Follow directions and respect safety barriers.
• Never let young children play with fireworks, especially sparklers, or pick up pieces of exploded fireworks as they may still be very hot.
• Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest.
• Never relight a “dud.”
• Light only one firework at a time.
• Never touch fireworks that fail to explode. Maintain a distance from them if you want to light another firework.
If you do sustain an eye injury:
• Go to the emergency room or see your eye doctor immediately.
• Do not rinse the eye.
• Do not apply ointment to the eye.
• Do not rub the eye. Instead cover it with a shield.
• Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen and other blood thinners, unless medically necessary as prescribed by your physician.