Fireworks and Eye Injuries

July 3, 2013

Celebrating our nation’s independence should not come with an added trip to your primary or ophthalmic doctor! Every year, 9,300 serious injuries are sustained from fireworks; of that number, up to 2,000 people on average suffer some form of eye injury.

Of the injuries sustained by fireworks annually in the United States, eye injuries can be some of the most life-changing. Approximately one quarter of the eye injuries sustained from fireworks (averaging about 500 of the 2,000 reported) cause permanent loss of vision, blindness, or loss of the eye completely. Other complications to the eyes include torn irises, corneal ruptures, hyphema (blood in the front of the eye), eyelid lacerations, subconjunctival hemorrhages, and severe burns to the ocular surface.

While the majority of fireworks injuries seem to stem from firecrackers and “bottle rockets,” seemingly harmless sparklers can be potentially dangerous to the eyes and your overall health as well. Children should NEVER be allowed to handle any type of pyrotechnic equipment, nor should any individual under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Safety glasses and gloves should be worn by the adult setting off fireworks and the entire group watching the display should be an adequate distance away from the “launch” site; ideally at least 40 feet for consumer products, 500 feet for professional products. Professional fireworks are provided by your county of residence in New York State; there are many wonderful, free showings annually, especially in the period surrounding the Fourth of July. Check your local listings for dates and times in your county!

Remember, consumer fireworks are illegal in New York State, unless you have a permit. Do not, under any circumstances, use fireworks if you are not licensed to do so, or it is legal in your state of residence.