Eye doctors warn of ‘devastating’ fireworks injuries
Considering the number of states that ban consumer fireworks and the annual safety warnings by officials, you might think injuries are a thing of the past.
“People should remember that the key word in fireworks is ‘fire,’” said Dr. Philip R. Rizzuto, ophthalmologist and secretary for communications for the AAO, in a statement. “Fireworks should not be thought of as toys, but devices that can cause third-degree burns. This is why people must be vigilant and take precautions to avoid the risk of serious eye injury.”
The AAO says that more than 5,000 people are sent to emergency rooms in just two weeks before and after the Fourth of July holiday. Nearly 30 percent of the injuries are to kids younger than 15.
Eye injuries, in particular, are common. Ranging from scratches on the surface of the eye to potential blinding injuries like detached retinas, says the AAO.
Sparklers, though considered by many to be harmless novelties for kids, pose grave risks, says Dr. Rizzuto. “Sparklers can burn more than 1,000 degrees hotter than the boiling point of water. So, fireworks should not be thought of as toys, but devices that can cause third-degree burns.”
In case of injury
According to Dr. Stephen Crouch, emergency medicine physician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., “Our emergency department sees about three to five patients with firework-related injuries each day surrounding the July 4th holiday.” He says the most common are burns related to sparklers, but it’s also common to see hand injuries from holding a firework that exploded.”
Dr. Crouch has some tips for what to do in case of an injury.
If you or your child is injured by fireworks, go immediately to a doctor or the emergency room.
- In case of an eye injury, DO NOT touch or rub the eye; it can cause even more damage. And DO NOT flush the eye out with water or attempt to put any type of ointment in the eye.
- Do protect the eye by covering it without applying direct pressure. In the ED, they use a hard metal eye shield. Something similar from home would work – even a piece of cardboard. Otherwise, do nothing else except call 911 or be driven to the nearest ED.
- In case of a burn, remove the item causing the burn and remove clothing from the burned area. Then run cool water over the burned area. You can also apply a cool, wet cloth to the burn. DO NOT use ice. Then seek medical evaluation.
- All burns from fireworks unless truly only minor should be seen by a healthcare provider.
Dr. Crouch’s final advice? “Enjoy the 4th safely – leave the fireworks to the professionals.”
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