From golf to yard work to watching fireworks, summer activities can sometimes lead you straight to the ER. And many of those visits involve serious eye injuries. It’s no surprise that accidents involving fireworks top the list.
A recent report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found a significant upward trend in fireworks-related injuries. Between 2006 and 2021, injuries with fireworks climbed 25% in the U.S.
“Running with sparklers, getting in the way of a bottle rocket, and fiddling around with unexploded fireworks are all just accidents waiting to happen,” says Griffin Jardine, MD, an ophthalmologist at John A. Moran Eye Center.
Tips for Avoiding Eye Injuries
- Never pick up a “dud” firework that has been lit but not exploded. These so-called duds can explode while people hold them and blast hot debris into the eyes.
- Make a habit of wearing safety glasses and provide them to family and friends when the fireworks come out.
- Keep fireworks away from kids. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is from a distance at a professional show.
Minimizing Eye Damage
If you do experience a fireworks injury to the eye, you can minimize damage by:
- Staying calm and keeping the victim as calm as possible, too.
- Getting medical attention immediately. Even if the injury seems mild, damaged areas may worsen if you don’t get proper treatment right away.
- Not touching or rubbing the eye. Pressure can do more harm than good when it comes to eye injuries.
- Not rinsing the injured eye since that may do even more damage than rubbing. Instead, shield the eye by covering it with a paper cup or something similar that won’t 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 attempt to remove an object stuck in the eye.
- Not applying ointments or taking pain medications before getting medical help.
Beyond Fireworks: Flying Objects and Eye Trauma
Anything that can hit an eye bluntly or penetrate the eye may cause serious injury. Just like a concussion causes brain damage, concussive force to the eye can injure the eye itself and damage the connections between the eye and brain. This can disrupt the brain’s ability to interpret light and electrical messages as vision.
Remember that ocular trauma can also cause problems with vision years after the initial injury, which can increase the risk of conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal detachment.
You can reduce your risk by:
- Wearing protective eyewear for any sports that involve balls, fists, or missiles. Some sports may not seem like obvious risks, but eyes are often hit by balls (paintball, racquetball, golf, and soccer) or fingers and elbows (basketball and volleyball).
- Keeping children and infants away from chores that involve flying objects, such as mowing the lawn, weed whacking, hammering, and chopping wood. If you’re doing any of those chores, wear quality protective eyewear.