The Fourth of July is a widely celebrated holiday nationwide. A substantial part of many Fourth of July celebrations both leading up to and during the holiday is the novelty and fun of fireworks. During this year’s holiday celebrations, the member doctors of the Wisconsin Optometric Association (WOA) urge all citizens to exercise caution and safety when using all types of fireworks.
Outside of injuries to the hands and fingers, eye injuries are among the most common injuries that result from the improper use of fireworks. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 9,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in 2011. In a study conducted by CPSC staff of fireworks injuries from June 17 through July 17, 2011, injuries to the eye were the second most common fireworks-related injuries as measured, accounting for nearly 1 in 5 cases. While fireworks-related injuries typically result in burns on other parts of the body, contusions, lacerations and lodged foreign bodies are common eye injuries.
Of concern in this study are results showing that children and young adults under 20 years of age accounted for more than 30 percent of all estimated injuries caused by fireworks, and more than 1 in 4 children under the age of 15 suffered fireworks-related injuries in this time period. Topping the list of injury causes were sparklers, a favorite among children and generally thought to be reasonably safe by many adults. The young, who tend to be especially attracted to the spectacle of using fireworks, are suffering the greatest negative impact as a result. In terms of gender, males are overwhelmingly impacted, comprising 68 percent of fireworks-related injury occurrences.
“As adults and parents, we must take the reins in promoting the safe use of fireworks to everyone within our circle of family and friends,” advises current WOA president and Milwaukee and Madison area optometrist Dr. Kellye Knueppel. “As an eye doctor, I have seen firsthand the devastating results of fireworks-related accidents to the eye. Most of these injuries could have been avoided.”
The purchase and use without a permit of some consumer fireworks is legal in Wisconsin. However, the WOA reminds all citizens that no private use of fireworks is completely without risk, and therefore urges citizens to attend fireworks displays conducted by professionals. Those who choose to use fireworks this Fourth of July should follow common sense safety guidelines. Provide adult supervision to older children at all times; instruct children to leave the area immediately if their friends are using fireworks without adult supervision; do not allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks; never shoot off fireworks in metal or glass containers, as these materials can explode and release shrapnel; never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully; and always keep a bucket of water on hand in case of a malfunction or fire.
If an accident does occur, minimize damage to the eye and help potentially save a person’s sight by following these guidelines:
• Seek medical attention immediately, even for seemingly mild injuries. “Mildly” damaged areas can worsen and end in serious vision loss or even blindness.
• Shield the eye from pressure. Tape or secure the bottom of a foam cup, milk carton or similar shield against the brow, cheek and bridge of the nose.
• Do not rub the eye or apply pressure. If any eye tissue is torn, rubbing might cause more serious damage.
• Do not attempt to rinse out the eye. This can be even more damaging than rubbing.
• Do not give aspirin/ibuprofen (or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to try to reduce the pain. These medications thin the blood and might increase bleeding.
• Do not apply ointment or any medication without consulting a licensed eye doctor.