What would the Fourth of July be without fireworks? Well, a lot safer, for one thing.
Nearly 300 people a day go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries in the month around Independence Day, according to the Consumer Project Safety Commission. Half of those injured are children and teens. And you don’t even have to be the one handling the fireworks to get hurt: bystanders are often the ones injured.
Hands and fingers, not surprisingly, suffer the brunt of the blows, accounting for nearly a third of injuries. But eyes — at 14% — are among the most commonly injured body parts. We’re talking some potentially serious injuries here: In the most severe cases, fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment — all of which can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Set your sights on protecting your sight this 4th by keeping these safety tips in mind:
- Let the pros handle it. The best way to avoid injury is to attend a professionally produced public fireworks show. Stay behind safety barriers, at least 500 feet away.
- Keep the kids out of it. If you just can’t resist those roadside firework stands that proliferate like kudzu this time of year, don’t let young children play with your purchases. Even older kids should handle fireworks only under close adult supervision.
- Don’t be fooled by sparklers. They burn at extremely high temperatures and can give kids (and adults) a false sense of security.
- Dish the duds. Don’t try to relight a malfunctioning firework. Soak them in water and throw them away.
- Stay in the open. Only use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and other flammable material. Be sure other people are out of range before striking that match. And for heaven’s sake, don’t light fireworks in a container, especially glass or metal.
- Don’t try to “improve” fireworks or make your own. Really, does anyone think this would be a good idea? Just. Don’t. C’mon, enough said.
- Learn more about firework safety. Check out organizations such the National Safety Council for safety advice for fireworks.
OK, you’re going to be careful, but what about those other celebrants who’ve thrown caution and good sense to the wind? An eye injury from fireworks is a major medical emergency, so seek medical attention immediately. Meanwhile, fight your natural instincts and don’t:
- Rub your eyes
- Rinse your eyes
- Apply pressure
- Remove any objects stuck in the eye
- Apply ointments
- Take any blood-thinning pain meds (aspirin, ibuprofen) unless directed by a doctor
Finally, remember vision loss can happen gradually and may go undetected until it’s in advanced stages. So whether you’re lighting up the night sky or playing it safe from a distance, be sure to get your annual eye exams.
With some caution and common sense, you and your family will see your way clear to many more Fourth of July celebrations ahead.