According to the latest data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 7,000 Americans spent part of their Fourth of July holiday in the emergency room in 2014 due to fireworks injuries. 19 percent of those injuries were to the eyes.
Burns were the most common injury to all parts of the body, except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eyes occurred more frequently. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately one third of eye injuries from fireworks result in permanent blindness.
The CPSC also stated that children younger than 15 years of age accounted for approximately 35 percent of the estimated 2014 injuries. And, children 5 to 9 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries.
Firecrackers and rockets are unpredictable. Some explode prematurely and rockets can take different flight paths than expected. Sparklers can burn up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
To help keep consumers safe during the Fourth of July holiday and throughout the year, Prevent Blindness supports the development and enforcement of bans on the importation, sale and use of all fireworks and sparklers, except those used in authorized public displays by competent licensed operators. The group works with leading organizations to educate the public on the dangers of consumer fireworks and endorses legislation to help protect adults and children from needless injuries from fireworks.
“Independence Day should be spent celebrating our great country with family and friends, not in the emergency room,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “We want everyone to be safe by leaving the fireworks to the professionals.”
According to data from the United States Eye Injury Registry, the largest proportion of injured persons from fireworks were bystanders, not the person actually igniting the firework. Prevent Blindness urges the public to attend only authorized public fireworks displays conducted by licensed operators, but to also be aware that even professional displays can have accidents as well, and all those attending should always be extra cautious.
If an eye accident does occur, minimize the damage to the eye:
• Do not rub the eye. Rubbing the eye may increase bleeding or make the injury worse.
• Do not attempt to rinse out the eye. This can be even more damaging than rubbing.
• Do not apply pressure to the eye itself. Holding or taping a foam cup or the bottom of a juice carton to the eye are just two tips. Protecting the eye from further contact with any item, including a child’s hand, is the goal.
• Do not stop for medicine! Over-the-counter pain relievers will not do much to relieve pain. Aspirin (should never be given to children) and ibuprofen can thin the blood, increasing bleeding. Take the child to the emergency room at once – this is more important than stopping for a pain reliever.
• Do not apply ointment. Ointment, which may not be sterile, makes the area around the eye slippery and harder for the doctor to examine.
For more information on the dangers of fireworks, please call Prevent Blindness at (800) 331-2020, or visit preventblindness.org/prevent-eye-injuries-fireworks.