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  • The Eyes are Especially Vulnerable to Fireworks Injuries

Published on June 10, 2013

The Eyes are Especially Vulnerable to Fireworks Injuries


SIOUX FALLS (June 10, 2013) - If you haven’t already, very soon you’ll be hearing the familiar crackles and booms of fireworks as the Fourth of July holiday approaches. Unfortunately, fireworks cause some 9,000 injuries each year, and the eyes are especially vulnerable.

“Nearly one-fifth of fireworks injuries happen to the eyes. What’s really scary is that one-sixth of these injuries result in permanent vision loss,” said Dr. Jeffrey Stevens, Ophthalmologist with Avera Medical Group Ophthalmology. “The eyes are very delicate and sensitive. If you get a minor burn on your hand, it hurts but heals pretty quickly. However, the same burn on your eye could cause permanent damage or even blindness.”

The best advice is to avoid setting off your own fireworks altogether. “Fireworks are dangerous, period, and there are going to be injuries associated with them. It’s best to attend a professional show, and enjoy the fireworks from a safe distance,” said Dr. Michael Griess, Ophthalmologist with Avera Medical Group Ophthalmology.

It’s common knowledge that bottle rockets are the most dangerous type of firework. But even seemingly harmless smoke bombs and fountains have caused serious injuries. Consider these actual examples:

  • A 12-year-old boy did not fully unwrap the fuse of a fountain firework, making the fuse too short and causing it to explode almost immediately after being ignited. The firework blew up in his face, severely injuring the child's 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. 

Sparklers, which are often the first fireworks parents give to their children, are seemingly innocent. Yet sparklers can burn at nearly 2000 degrees – hot enough to cause a third-degree burn. Sparklers alone account for one-third of all fireworks injuries.

If you do choose to buy and light fireworks, adults only should light the fireworks. And, wear eye protection. Never pick up or get near a firework that was lit, but did not go off. “Not only those lighting the fireworks are at risk, but spectators are as well,” Dr. Griess said. Those watching fireworks shows – whether at home, or a professional show – should stay at a safe distance. Fireworks may explode in an unexpected direction, or wind might carry sparks or hot fragments.

Eye injuries from fireworks can include eyelid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage, and complete blindness. If an eye injury happens to you or a loved one, it’s impossible to know how extensive the injury is. Seek medical attention immediately. Don’t rub, rinse or put any pressure on the eye.

“No one wants a happy family celebration to be ruined by an injury, which could turn out to be very tragic. We advise families to enjoy visiting, eating and playing together on the Fourth of July, but when it comes time for fireworks, go to a professional show,” Dr. Stevens added.