As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, ophthalmologists – medical doctors who treat eye disease and conditions – are preparing for an influx of patients who are injured each year while playing with celebratory fireworks. To help reduce the number of potentially blinding injuries caused by these devices, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is offering the public tips for safe celebrations. It is also releasing a new animated public service announcement to help educate families about the dangers of playing with fireworks such as bottlerockets, firecrackers, sparklers and roman candles.
According to the latest U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission report on fireworks injuries, more than 11,000 injuries occurred in 2013, with 1 in 6 fireworks injuries damaging the eyes.i The most severe eye injuries include ruptured eyeballs, chemical and thermal burns and corneal abrasions, all of which can permanently impact a person’s vision.
“We now keep an operating room open on call just to treat Fourth of July fireworks eye injuries, and unfortunately anticipate having to treat multiple ruptured globes as well as numerous thermal and chemical eye burns this year,” said Russell N. Van Gelder, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and chairman of the ophthalmology department at the University of Washington. “Many if not all of these fireworks eye injuries could be prevented if people more carefully consider the life-changing risks they’re taking by playing with fireworks.”
Despite the dangers, an Academy fireworks survey of more than 2,000 adults nationwide conducted by Harris Poll in May 2015 shows that Americans are more vigilant about protecting their eyes when doing home repairs or routine housework than when handling consumer fireworks. Among the specific survey findings:
- Many Americans report being injured or know people injured by fireworks: One-third of those polled have been injured or know someone that has been injured by fireworks, yet 1 in 5 still plan to use fireworks this July 4.
- Almost three times as many people wear eye protection for housecleaning and home repair than for fireworks: Of those polled, 28 percent say they use eye protection such as goggles when cleaning with chemicals and 26 percent report wearing protective eyewear when doing home repairs such as plumbing or carpentry. Yet, only 10 percent say they wear protective eyewear when using fireworks, as recommended by the Academy.
- Five times as many people say it’s OK to let kids play with sparklers/fireworks versus light candles: While only 11 percent say children age 5 to 10 should be allowed to light birthday candles, 54 percent say that it is OK for children that age to play with sparklers and other fireworks.
The Academy is providing this information to encourage more Americans to take additional precautions to protect their eyes around fireworks, just as they would when engaged in other common activities that may pose a threat to their vision.
Fireworks Eye Safety Tips
The Academy recommends attending a professional display rather than using fireworks at home as this is the safest way to avoid injury. The guidance is the main focus of its new, fun and kid-friendly animated public service announcement.
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Those who still choose to use consumer fireworks should never allow young children to handle them, including sparklers. People handling fireworks should always wear protective eyewear, as should those watching. They should also follow the fireworks laws for their location.
If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, seek medical attention immediately and follow these guidelines:
- Do not rub, rinse or apply pressure to your eyes.
- Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
- Do not apply ointments or take any blood thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
To see more survey findings, visit the Academy’s Fireworks Survey Highlights page. For additional information about fireworks eye safety, visit www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/injuries-fireworks-eye-safety. Members of the news media who would like to speak with ophthalmologists or patients who have experienced fireworks injuries may contact the Academy’s Public Relations Department at [email protected].
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, serving more than 32,000 members worldwide. The Academy’s mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care. For more information, visit www.aao.org.
The Academy is also a leading provider of eye care information to the public. The Academy’s EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit EyeSmart or OjosSanos to learn more.
About the Survey
The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Academy of Ophthalmology from May 4-6, 2015 among 2,034 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact [email protected].