Eye M.D.s Warn Public that Fireworks Can Cause Permanent Vision Loss

Closely supervise children around fireworks


The Fourth of July is a favorite American holiday. Yet mishaps with fireworks can make the holiday memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Each July 4th, thousands of Americans are injured using fireworks. Eyes are among the most injured body parts, and one in six fireworks-related eye injuries results in permanent vision loss or blindness. Eye injuries from fireworks include cuts, burns, abrasions, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, and complete blindness. This damage is often permanent.

Of the more than 9,000 fireworks injuries that occur in the United States each year, approximately 45 percent are sustained by children age 15 and under. In one case, a six-year-old boy in San Diego found an M-80 firework in his home and lit it with a barbeque lighter. The explosion resulted in a traumatic injury that impacted the boy's throat, face and eyes. He called 911 for help (mp3 audio) and his eye injuries required an immediate cornea transplant and lens replacement, and he has undergone several additional eye surgeries since then.

"It's crucial that the public understand the potentially devastating dangers that backyard fireworks shows can present," said Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., ophthalmologist and communications secretary for the Academy. "The American Academy of Ophthalmology urges parents and responsible adults to be especially vigilant about these risks if children are in the presence of fireworks and follow appropriate safety tips to reduce the risk of eye injury."

The Academy advises the public that the best way to avoid potentially blinding injuries is to attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a backyard fireworks show. For those who decide to purchase and use legal consumer fireworks, the Academy recommends they follow these safety tips to prevent eye injuries:

  • Never handle fireworks without protective eyewear and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
  • Never let young children play with fireworks of any type. If older children are permitted to handle fireworks, ensure they are closely supervised by an adult and wear protective eyewear.
  • Clear the area of flammable materials and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.

For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:

  • Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows.
  • Do not touch unexploded display (show) fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.

If you do experience an eye injury during a fireworks accident, seek immediate medical help.

Learn more by watching EyeSmart's fireworks video and listening to a fireworks radio message (mp3 audio). Also available en Español (mp3 audio).

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