As Independence Day celebrations draw near, it's important to remember that fireworks are inherently dangerous, and if not used wisely, can cause blinding, amputations, severe burns or death. For example, each year in the United States, approximately 2,400 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for eye injuries caused by fireworks. Twenty-five percent of those injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness. According to the Oregon Health & Science University Casey Eye Institute, eye injuries happen in less than a second but often cause lifelong visual impairment.
Doctors at OHSU offer the following tips to avoid firework injuries:
- Never allow children to play with fireworks. About half of those injured last year were under age 15.
- Read and follow all fireworks warnings and instructions.
Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of an accident or fire.
- Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface.
- Fireworks should be lit away from houses, dry leaves and flammable materials.
- Do not use bottle rockets. They are the most dangerous type of fireworks by far because they fly erratically, frequently injuring bystanders. Bottle rockets cause 67 percent of all fireworks eye injuries. Firecrackers cause 7 percent of eye injuries and Roman candles cause 4 percent.
- Protect your eyes with safety glasses or safety goggles. Regular prescription glasses, sunglasses or contact lenses provide little or no protection and can actually contribute to an injury.
- Never put fireworks in glass bottles, tin cans or clay pots because these objects can shatter and cause eye injuries.