Eye doctors warn about danger from fireworks, even sparklers; optometrists provide safety tips

The Fourth of July goes hand in glove with firework displays. Most families protect parents and children against the dangers of fireworks, but thousands still visit the emergency room every year, many with eye injuries.

According to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 9,600 people were treated for injuries due to fireworks in U.S. emergency rooms during 2011; it says 17 percent of those injuries were to the eyes, and about 45 percent of those eye injuries involve children age 15 or under. Most eye
injuries were bruises, cuts and other diagnoses that included foreign objects in the eye, and one in six fireworks-related eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness, says the American Academy of Opthalmology.

“Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks is a great tradition, but safety needs to be the top priority,” Dr. Jon Shrewsbury, an optometrist in Beaver Dam, Ky., said in a Kentucky Optometric Association release.  “Children are especially vulnerable to injury from fireworks, particularly sparklers since they are handled at such close range.”

The innocent-looking sparkler can be very dangerous, especially to children, who are most likely to play with them. They heat up to 2,000 degrees or hotter, and are the primary cause of fireworks-related visits to emergency rooms. In addition to not allowing younger children to play with sparklers or fireworks and ensuring that older children are supervised by an adult when doing so, the KOA offers these tips to help protect and preserve eyesight during firework season:

· Discuss firework safety with children and teens prior to the Fourth of July holiday.
· Never leave them unsupervised near fireworks.
· Wear protective eyewear when lighting and handling fireworks of any kind.
· Store fireworks, matches and lighters in a secure place where children won’t find them.
· Be aware of your surroundings, and only light fireworks when family, friends and children are at a safe distance.

“If a firework-related eye injury does occur, always follow up with a full optometric eye exam,” Shrewsbury said. “An optometrist will help ensure that the injury heals correctly and will continue to monitor for future vision problems.” To find an optometrist in your area, click here.

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