Summer friends wearing prescription sunglasses

Fireworks Safety Month: Protect Your Eyes 4th of July

June and July are filled with vibrant displays of fireworks, so it’s important to remember that these spectacular shows can pose risks, especially to our eyes. June is Fireworks Safety Month, a crucial time to focus on protecting our most valuable senses from the potential harm fireworks can cause. At Clarkson Eyecare, we’re committed to ensuring your celebration is both joyful and safe, emphasizing the need for proper eye protection and awareness. 

Fireworks, while entertaining, are associated with many eye injuries every year, with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimating that there were 10,200 fireworks-related injuries in 2022 alone. These injuries can range from minor irritations to severe trauma that could lead to permanent vision loss, making awareness and understanding an essential first step toward injury prevention. In this article, we’ll guide you through the necessary precautions to protect your eyes, ensuring you and your family enjoy the festivities without endangering your sight. From protective eyewear to safe handling practices, we’re here to help you celebrate safely. 

Understanding the Risks of Fireworks

Fireworks are an integral part of many celebrations, especially during June and July. However, their beauty comes with inherent risks, particularly to eye health. In fact, 16% of all fireworks injuries occur in the eyes, underscoring the importance of taking fireworks seriously and protecting yourself while using them. These injuries can range from minor irritations to severe burns, and in some cases, can lead to significant eye damage or vision loss. Some of the most common eye injuries sustained from fireworks include: 

  • Burns and Thermal Injuries: The heat generated by fireworks can burn eyelids and the surface of the eye. These injuries often occur when fireworks explode too close to the face or when sparks encounter the skin or eyes. 

  • Corneal Abrasions: Small particles from fireworks can fly into the eyes, leading to corneal abrasions or foreign objects embedded in the eye. These injuries can be extremely painful and require immediate medical attention to prevent further damage and blindness. 

  • Blunt Force Trauma: The impact from fireworks or debris can cause blunt force trauma to the eye, potentially leading to serious conditions such as retinal detachment or globe rupture. Blunt force trauma injuries can result in significant vision loss if not treated promptly. 

  • Chemical Burns: Some fireworks contain chemicals that can cause severe burns if they reach the eyes. This type of injury often occurs when handling fireworks without proper precautions or safety gear. 

Who is at Risk of Fireworks-Related Injuries?

While anyone participating in fireworks festivities is at risk of fireworks-related eye injuries, the CPSC reports that adults between 25 and 44 years of age account for nearly 36% of those injuries, followed by children under 15 who account for 28%. Burns accounted for 38% of all fireworks injuries, with 30% of injured people experiencing contusions, lacerations, or abrasions, 26% facing other diagnoses, and 7% leaving with fractures or sprains. The other diagnoses were mostly associated with injuries to the eye, underscoring the essential need for both viewers and participants to follow proper safety precautions around fireworks. 

Essential Safety Gear for Firework Displays

One of the most effective ways to safeguard against eye injuries is by using the appropriate protective gear. Because fireworks can produce intense heat, bright light, and flying debris, all of which can cause serious harm to your eyes, protective eye wear is essential. This gear acts as a barrier against these dangers, reducing the risk of burns, impact injuries, and chemical exposure. Whether you’re lighting fireworks or simply watching from a close distance, wearing protective eye wear is a simple yet crucial step in maintaining eye safety. Some vital protective measures include:

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses are typically made from shatter-resistant materials like polycarbonate, which provides strong protection against flying debris and impacts. They often feature side shields to guard against particles entering from the sides and are ideal for both spectators and individuals handling fireworks. They are typically available in various sizes and styles to ensure a comfortable fit for everyone, including children. 

Safety Goggles 

Unlike safety glasses, safety goggles provide a seal around the eyes, offering more comprehensive protection from all angles. They are especially useful when dealing with smoke, chemicals, or in environments where there is a risk of sparks and small projectiles. 

Face Shields

Face shields provide full-face coverage, providing protection for the eyes, nose, and mouth. They are typically used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles to offer an additional layer of defense and are recommended for those who are closely managing or setting up fireworks displays. This gear is particularly beneficial in preventing injuries from larger explosions or malfunctioning fireworks. 

Sunglasses with UV Protection

While not specifically designed for fireworks, sunglasses with 100% UV protection can help shield your eyes from the intense light and glare of fireworks displays. They also provide some debris protection for casual observers. UV-protective sunglasses are recommended for spectators who are watching from a safer distance but still want to protect their eyes from bright flashes and stray particles. 

Best Practices for Safe Fireworks Handling

Beyond wearing the right protective gear, handling fireworks safely is essential to prevent injuries and ensure that your celebrations are enjoyable and hazard-free. To reduce the risk of accidents, there are a few essential handling practices to follow: 

  1. Read Instructions Carefully: Before using any firework, carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions. Each type of firework has specific handling and lighting procedures that must be follow to ensure safety. Also pay attention to the recommended distance and lighting method, as improper use can lead to unexpected and potentially dangerous outcomes. 

  2. Prepare a Safe Launch Site: Ensure the launch area is clear of flammable materials, dry grass, or other debris that could catch fire. It’s always recommended to find a flat, open space away from buildings, vehicles, and spectators. Also ensure you have a bucket of water, garden hose, or fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency. 

  3. Use Protective Gear: Always wear safety glasses or goggles when lighting fireworks to protect your eyes from sparks and debris, and wear gloves and long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from burns and flying particles. 

  4. Maintain a Safe Distance: After lighting a firework, move back to a safe distance immediately, and if it appears to ignite incorrectly, do not attempt to re-light it. You should also ensure that all spectators are a safe distance away from the launch area, and children should be closely supervised and kept away from the fireworks. 

  5. Light Fireworks Safely: Use a long lighter or a lighting stick (sometimes called “punks”) to ignite fireworks while keeping your hands and face as far from the firework as possible. You should never use a match or a short lighter that brings you too close to the fuse, and it’s best to only light one firework at a time to avoid confusion and mishandling. 

  6. Dispose of Fireworks Properly: After a firework has been used, wait for it to cool completely before handling it. Soaking used fireworks in water before disposing of them can prevent accidental ignition. Also ensure to follow local regulations for disposing of fireworks. 

What to Do When Injured by Fireworks

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, fireworks-related accidents can still happen. Knowing how to respond promptly and effectively to an eye injury can significantly reduce its severity and improve your chances of achieving a full recovery. If your eyes are injured by fireworks, there are a few immediate steps you can take: 

  1. Do Not Rub Your Eyes: Rubbing the injured eye can cause further injury, especially if there is a foreign object or chemical in the eye. Be sure to leave your eye alone to reduce the risk of bleeding, inflammation, and infection. 

  2. Do Not Rinse or Apply Pressure: Rinsing the eye, particularly with anything other than clean water, can spread the chemicals and debris around and cause more harm. Applying pressure can also exacerbate the damage, especially in cases of corneal abrasion or puncture wounds. Instead, gently place a protective covering over the eye to protect it from further injury. 

  3. Avoid Taking Painkillers: Over-the-counter painkillers can thin your blood and increase bleeding. It’s recommended to wait until a medical professional has evaluated the injury before taking any medication to reduce these risks. 

  4. Contact Emergency Services or Your Local Eye Doctor: When you are injured by fireworks, the best course of action is to visit the nearest emergency room as soon as possible. They may recommend you to an eye care specialist to receive specialized care. 

  5. Follow Medical Advice: Once you receive medical care, follow the treatment plan carefully to ensure you achieve a complete recovery. This may include prescribed medications, attending follow-up appointments, and avoiding activities that could strain your eye. 

Maintain Your Eye Health with Clarkson Eyecare

Whether you’re participating in a fireworks display or watching from a distance, Fireworks Safety Month is the perfect time to check in with your local Clarkson Eyecare doctor to ensure you maintain optimal eye health. Beyond fireworks-related injuries, your eyes naturally change as you age, making it essential to visit your eye doctor at least once each year to monitor your eyes and ensure your vision remains clear. 

As you gear up for a fun-filled July 4th, we encourage you to schedule a visit with the trusted eye care specialists at Clarkson Eyecare. Through a comprehensive eye exam, we can help ensure that your vision remains sharp so you can enjoy all summer celebrations safely.  

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