Thousands of people, many of them children, suffer eye injuries from fireworks each year in the United States. 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 permanently cause eye damage and affect vision.
According to the most recent fireworks injury report (PDF) from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks injuries in the in the United States caused nearly 10,500 injuries requiring treatment in emergency rooms. The report also showed that nearly 1,300 eye injuries related to fireworks were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2014, more than double the 600 reported in 2012.
Those injured by fireworks are not necessarily handling the explosives themselves. In fact, nearly half of people injured by fireworks are bystanders, according to an international study (PDF). Children are frequent victims: 35 percent who sustained a fireworks injury are age 15 and under, according to the commission’s report.
Fireworks: The Blinding Truth
Fireworks safety tips
The Academy advises that the best way to avoid a potentially blinding fireworks injury is by attending a professional public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for home use.
For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:
Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
Do not touch unexploded fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.
For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks because they live in states where they are legal, the Academy recommends the following safety tips to prevent eye injuries:
Never let young children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
People who handle fireworks should always wear protective eyewear that meets the parameters set by the American National Standards Institute and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.
What to do for a fireworks eye injury
If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, remember:
Seek medical attention immediately.
Do not rub your eyes.
Do not rinse your eyes.
Do not apply pressure.
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.