July 4 can spark eye safety conversation with patients

June 29, 2021
Eye injuries from fireworks sent hundreds to emergency rooms in 2020. A surefire way to make patients' July 4 holiday sparkle is to educate them on eye safety.
Firework safety

A surefire way to make patients' July 4 holiday sparkle is to educate them on eye safety.

According to a June 2021 report by the  U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 18 fireworks-related deaths were reported in 2020. Fireworks were involved in an estimated 15,600 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms, including 10,300 alone that occurred during the one-month period around July 4. Most of the injuries that led to ER visits were associated with fireworks.

And the most commonly injured parts of the body?

  • Hands and fingers (30%).
  • Head, face and ears (22%)
  • Eyes (15% or an estimated 1,500 injuries).
  • Legs (13%).
  • Arms (12%).
  • Trunk/Unspecified (7%).
    (Figures are based on CPSC estimates.)

The most common injuries to the eyes were unspecified causes, contusions/lacerations and burns. In separate cases cited by the CPSC, a 5-year-old boy lost his right eye after being injured by a bottle rocket; a 33-year-old was stricken in the face by the firework and was unable to see when her eyes were flushed, but luckily has no long-term consequenses; and a 3-year-old boy was injured from debris entering his eye while running away from lighting a smoke bomb with his father, sustaining no long-term consequences after his eye were flushed.

"The best way to prevent eye injuries is by attending professional firework displays and wearing safety glasses whenever near fireworks," says Maria Richman, O.D., who practices in Manasquan, New Jersey. "If an eye injury does occur, stay calm and seek medical attention immediately from a local doctor of optometry or the nearest emergency room. Even mild injuries can worsen if treatment is delayed.

"Don't attempt to remove any objects/debris from the eye," Dr. Richman says. "Instead cover the eye with the bottom part of a plastic or foam cup to prevent rubbing the eye. Additionally, the use of rinses, eye drops or ointments could make the problem worse, so again, make sure to see an eye doctor immediately."

To help prevent eye injuries during fireworks season, the AOA recommends the following tips to help protect and preserve eyesight during the Fourth of July holiday:

  • Discuss fireworks safety with children and teens prior to the Fourth of July holiday.
  • Do not allow kids to handle fireworks, and never leave them unsupervised near fireworks.
  • Wear protective eyewear when lighting and handling fireworks of any kind.
  • Store fireworks, matches and lighters in a secure place where children won't find them.
  • Refrain from purchasing sparklers. Heating up to 2,000 degrees or hotter, sparklers are the No. 1 cause of firework injuries to children requiring trips to the emergency room. The CPSC reported that sparklers accounted for more than half of the total estimated injuries to children under age 5.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and only light fireworks when family, friends and children are at a safe distance.
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