Simple Tips to Protect Your Eyes From Fireworks

How to avoid common injuries
Simple Tips to Protect Your Eyes From Fireworks

By: Richard Gans, MD

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Fireworks displays on the Fourth of July are as American as apple pie and baseball. But to view or use fireworks safely, there are a number of things to keep in mind.

Whether you’re grabbing a blanket and heading off to see a professional display, or living in a state where it’s legal to purchase consumer fireworks, take precautions to protect your eyes.

What’s the risk?

As fun as fireworks are, they also present dangers. The chemicals inside can be hazardous. The heat can burn you. The explosions cause projectiles that can injure or even kill.

As the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports, there are risks of serious eye injuries from watching or handling fireworks. Risks include corneal abrasions, ruptures of the globe of the eye, retinal detachment, and chemical and thermal burns.

All of these injuries could cause permanent eye damage or affect your vision. And unfortunately, they’re more frequent than you might think.

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 10,500 fireworks-related injuries needed emergency room treatment in 2014. Injury to the eyes accounted for 19 percent of those injuries.

And a poll commissioned by the AAO found that at least a third of people living in the United States had either been injured by fireworks themselves—or knew someone who had been injured.

How to protect your eyes

Fortunately, you can protect yourself with some smart practices.

For example, if you’re handling fireworks yourself, always wear safety glasses. This will provide protection from both sparks and projectiles.

Even with that protection, never pick up an unexploded firework. It may seem like a “dud,” but it could still explode. Even more important, do not let your child use fireworks, even sparklers, which can burn at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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One last tip for fireworks at home: After handling them, wash your hands before touching your eyes. The chemicals used in fireworks tend to be irritants.

Sometimes it’s best to leave the fireworks displays to the professionals. But even if you decide to see a professional display, follow any safety instructions from the event’s organizer.

A good rule of thumb: Stay a safe distance from the displays, at least 500 feet away, to avoid getting injured.

If you do experience an eye injury from fireworks, the AAO recommends that you avoid rubbing or rinsing your eyes, putting topical ointments in your eyes or taking blood-thinning medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Seek medical attention right away.

Have a fun Fourth of July, and enjoy the fireworks — but keep your vision safe in the process.

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