Thousands of people, many of them children, suffer eye injuries from fireworks each year in the United States. In the most severe cases, fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment – all of which can permanently cause eye damage and affect vision.
In the United States, fireworks were related to 10,500 injuries requiring treatment in emergency rooms, according to the most recent fireworks injury report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (PDF). Roughly 1 in 5 of those fireworks injuries harmed the eyes.
A devastating fireworks injury: Teen blinded in one eye by fireworks
Those injured by fireworks are not necessarily handling the explosives themselves. In fact, nearly half of people injured by fireworks are bystanders, according to an international study (PDF). Children are frequent victims: 35 percent who sustained a fireworks injury are age 15 and under, according to the commission's report.
Fireworks safety tips
The Academy advises that the best way to avoid a potentially blinding fireworks injury is by attending a professional public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for home use.
For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:
- Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
- Do not touch unexploded fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.
For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks because they live in states where they are legal, the Academy recommends the following safety tips to prevent eye injuries:
- Never let young children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
- People who handle fireworks should always wear protective eyewear that meets the parameters set by the American National Standards Institute and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
- Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.
What to do for a fireworks eye injury
If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, remember:
- 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.
Fireworks safety messages
Learn more by watching EyeSmart's fireworks video and listening to the following fireworks radio messages (mp3 audio):
Revised by Shirley Dang on June 29, 2015
Infographic: Fireworks Injuries by the Numbers
Learn about risks and ways to keep your eyes safe