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The Blinding Truth About Fireworks

From the bright glow of sparklers to the thrill of bottle rockets and Roman candles, fireworks are a July tradition.

Unfortunately, so are firework-related eye injuries.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), fireworks mishaps account for approximately 10,000 visits to emergency rooms each year, and most of them involve children who suffer thousands of eye injuries. Not surprisingly, the most disabling injuries occur with illegal firecrackers, but the highest number of injuries happen at home with the legal fireworks parents buy for kids.

That's why ophthalmologists who treat patients with potentially blinding damage every single Fourth of July want you to know:

  • Sparklers burn at 1800 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals. Basically cheap wires coated with chemicals, they are responsible for most fireworks-related injuries among children age five and younger.
  • At-home fireworks, many of which are illegal for good reason, are as unpredictable as a buzzing bee. They injure bystanders just as often as the operators.
  • Never pick up a firework after it has been lit. Even though it looks like a dud, it may not act like one. So-called duds have been known to explode while people hold them, blasting hot debris into eyes.
  • The safest way to view fireworks is to watch a professional show.
  • If you're not already in the habit of wearing safety glasses and providing them for family and friends when the fireworks come out, please reconsider.
  • Regular glasses or sunglasses won't prevent injuries. In fact, they are more likely to break or shatter and cause more harm.

If you do experience a fireworks injury to the eye, you can minimize damage. Here's how:

  • Stay calm and keep the victim as calm as possible, too.
  • Get medical attention immediately. Even if the injury seems mild, damaged areas may easily worsen if you don't get proper treatment right away.
  • Don't touch or rub the eye. Pressure can do more harm than good when it comes to eye injuries.
  • Avoid rinsing the injured eye since that can do even more damage than rubbing it. Instead, shield the eye by covering with a paper cup or something similar that will not make contact with the eye. Gently tape it there for a temporary eye patch.
  • If hot ash falls in the eye, rinse it with water, but never, ever attempt to remove an object stuck in the eye.
  • Do not apply ointments or take pain medications before getting medical help.

Now that you know the risks and precautions, keeping your July celebrations safe may be the best tradition of all.