Independence day is quickly approaching, which means picnics, beach trips, and parties for many families across the country. But like many Americans, when you think of July Fourth, you probably think about fireworks. Fireworks are a fun way to display our patriotism and celebrate our nation’s birth, but when it comes to handling them, your safety should take first priority.
Each year there are many injuries from amateur and unsupervised use of fireworks. Though damage to skin and fingers is common, many people don’t realize fireworks pose a great risk of eye and vision damage as well. Firecrackers and bottle rockets can produce devastating internal and external injuries with lasting effects. Some state laws forbid the sale and purchase of these types of fireworks, but even sparklers – a seemingly benign device which can typically be purchased for home use – can burn at a temperature hot enough to melt metal! Suffice to say, even these have the potential to cause serious damage.
Injury reports range from ocular bleeding, eyelid laceration, and retinal damage, to permanent blindness in one or both eyes. Prolonged exposure to extreme light can also put you at risk of developing an eye condition such as glaucoma or cataracts. When an amateur attempts to handle fireworks, not only is he putting himself at risk, he is also posing a risk to every onlooker present, including children.
Protect your eyes by wearing goggles. If an injury – especially an eye injury – occurs during a nonprofessional fireworks display, get medical attention immediately. Do not apply any ointment or medication, as it is probably not sterile, and do not give NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) for pain, as this might increase bleeding. If you must give analgesics, stick to acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not “wait and see” if the injury gets better. Many minor eye injuries can become serious problems simply by delaying medical treatment.
The good news is that there is a safe way to enjoy fireworks that involves little to no risk to your eyes: leave it to the professionals. There are many free public displays where professionals can help you and your family enjoy fireworks safely. Those of us at Raleigh Eye Center want you to know that even during times of celebration, taking care of your eyes is a priority! We wish you a safe and Happy Independence Day!