Independence Day celebrations are an American tradition. After all, what’s more American than family cookouts and fireworks to ring in the 4th of July holiday? But along with the fun and pageantry of the celebration come dangerous risks if safety isn’t top of mind when it’s time to light up the sky with the star-spangled brilliance of fireworks.
Nearly 10,000 injuries each year are a result of firework malfunction or careless use, and more than 65% of these injuries take place during the month of July. An estimated 14% of injuries occur to the eyes. To combat these statistics and spread awareness of proper safety precautions in preparation of Fourth of July celebrations, the American Academy of Ophthalmology designated July National Fireworks Safety Month.
Although some incidents are the result of amateurs attempting to use professional-grade or homemade fireworks, most of the accidents are caused by less powerful devices. Firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and sparklers are the most common fireworks that cause injury.
The best way to prevent an eye injury or any firework-related accident is to leave it to the licensed professionals. Find a local event that includes a professional display and enjoy the excitement from afar.
“Firework injuries to the eye can be visually devastating and should always be handled with care,” says Alex C. Whittington, M.D., Jackson Eye Associates physician. “As we head into the time of 4th of July celebrations, please remember to put safety first when it comes to fireworks.”
“First, never look down the barrel of a firework to see if it is finished and always wear eye protection,” Dr. Whittington continues.
Other recommendations for firework safety consist of the following:
Most importantly, be prepared in case an accident or injury occurs. If a firework injures someone, go to a doctor or hospital immediately. In the event of an eye injury, remember the following tips to prevent vision loss or blindness:
This 4th of July, your safest bet is to enjoy a public fireworks display where you can let the pros do the work while you and your family enjoy the spectacle from a distance. But if your family insists on having a fireworks show of its own, practice extreme caution so your summer celebration doesn’t end in catastrophe.
Alex C. Whittington, M.D., Ophthalmologist, at Jackson Eye Associates, received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. He served a Preliminary Residency at Palmetto Health Richland Hospital at the University of SC and his Ophthalmology Residency at West Virginia University Eye Institute, where he was Chief Resident of Ocular and Facial Trauma from 2016-2017. He is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.