Fireworks: Use caution and have fun

Thoughts of summer holidays bring to mind parades, barbecues, and fireworks. While public displays of fireworks are usually safe and enjoyable, children and adults must remember that using fireworks at home can be dangerous, according to an ophthalmologist with University of Iowa Health Care.

Eye injuries from fireworks

Erin Shriver, MD, ophthalmologist with University of Iowa Health Care, has seen some very serious eye injuries due to bottle rockets and other fireworks.

While many injuries associated with fireworks occur to the person lighting the fireworks, almost half of those injured by fireworks are bystanders and observers, and many of those are children.

"People need to be extremely careful when lighting fireworks. Fireworks can cause corneal abrasions and burns, cataracts, damage the eyelids, and even rupture the eye. Unfortunately, I have seen multiple patients who had severe ruptures of the eye, loss of vision, and ultimately required removal of the eye from fireworks.”

Eye injuries from sparklers

Many injuries are from projectile fireworks or debris from explosions, but even sparklers are dangerous.

Shriver continues: “Some people think sparklers are suitable for young children. But they get hot enough to melt metal (about 2,000 degrees) which can result in severe burns. Even when sparklers cool off, they are sharp and can poke eyes and cause other puncture injuries.”

Guidelines for firework use

For those who do set off fireworks at home, Shriver echoed some warnings from the Consumer Protection Safety Commission.

Firework warnings from the Consusmer Protection Safety Commission

  • Never allow young children to play with or light fireworks
  • Keep bystanders out of the way
  • Don't put bottle rockets or other fireworks in metal or glass bottles
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket after lighting it
  • Don't light fireworks in areas with debris or underbrush that may catch fire
  • Make sure the fuse or wick is long enough to avoid burns  and back up a safe distance
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a firework device when lighting the fuse
  • Wear protective eye gear, such as safety glasses

Projectile firework safety

For parents who are lighting fireworks with children around, Shriver advises close supervision. "Projectile fireworks just are not a good idea, especially when children are around. Leaving it up to the professionals and enjoying a nearby public fireworks display in your hometown is much safer, not to mention, cheaper." she said.

Last reviewed: 
June 2017

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