Fireworks eye safety
Fireworks eye safety

A trip to the emergency room is no way to celebrate Independence Day.

Every year, Sidharth Puri, MD, a resident physician with the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, sees people in the hospital around the July 4th holiday with eye injuries.

“Every year, fireworks-related injuries cause people to go to the operating room due to injury to the globe of the eye or eyeball,” Puri said.

“Fireworks are fun, but parents need to keep kids away from them. For adults, it’s important to wear eye protection and remember to hold fireworks away from your face and body. We really want everyone to always keep fireworks safety in mind.”

In 2016, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 11,100 injuries from fireworks were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the United States. While hands and fingers are the most frequently affected parts of the body, about 1,000 of these were eye injuries. Fireworks can cause eye damage through chemical or thermal burns and injuries to the eyeball, resulting in permanent vision loss.

Fireworks safety goes beyond Independence Day. Nearly 32 percent of injuries occur outside of the month surrounding the holiday.

“Even other times of year, remember to store fireworks out of reach or where kids cannot find them,” Puri said.

For safety, follow these rules:

  • Do NOT let young children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
  • Always wear protective eyewear when handling fireworks and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
  • Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.

“If something does happen, don’t be a hero,” Puri said. “Don’t just wash the eye and take aspirin. It is best to seek care immediately. These injuries are urgent and time is vision.”

In case of an eye injury from fireworks:

  • 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

Download, print and share the UofL Physicians Eye Specialists safety guide here.

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Betty Coffman
Betty Coffman is a Health Communications Specialist, working on the Health Sciences Campus with departments in the School of Medicine. A UofL alumna and Louisville native, she served as a writer and editor for local and national publications and as an account services coordinator and copywriter for marketing and design firms prior to joining UofL’s Office of Marketing and Communications.