Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Leave Fireworks to the Professionals this Fourth of July

By The Texas Ophthalmological Association

The Texas Ophthalmological Association (TOA) wants to remind consumers to leave fireworks to professionals. “Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident,” said Sidney K. Gicheru, MD, TOA President, who practices in Irving, Texas. “Potentially blinding injuries can be avoided if families attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a home fireworks display.”

Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those 15 years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn.

Roberto Diaz-Rohena, MD, of McAllen recalled treating a four-year-old boy who lost an eye due to a rocket-induced ruptured globe. “The sad part was that the dad asked the young boy to pick up the rocket from the floor when it didn’t shoot into the air. It did when the boy picked up the rocket – right into his eye. I’ll never forget the dad’s guilt-driven howling.”

Fireworks are not toys for children to play with. “I treated a little girl last year who had a bottle rocket blow up in her face. The child suffered a severe eye injury, and one eye is now legally blind. Be careful, because life can change in an instant,” said Evelyn Paysse, MD, of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

“Among the most serious injuries are abrupt trauma to the eye from bottle rockets,” according to Dr. Gicheru. The rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eyelid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage and complete blindness.

For those who attend professional fireworks displays or live in communities surrounding public fireworks shows, the TOA recommends that viewers:

  • Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows. View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Avoid touching unexploded display fireworks. Instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments for help.  

For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks because they live in states where they are legal, the TOA recommends following these safety tips to prevent eye injuries:

  • Never let children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers, which can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. 
  • Adults should always wear protective eyewear that meets parameters set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) if handling fireworks and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection. ANSI-approved protective eyewear can be easily purchased from most hardware stores.
  • Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.

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. 

For additional information about fireworks safety, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s fireworks injury infographic, visit www.geteyesmart.org.

Find Eye MDs in your area at www.TexasEyes.org.

The Texas Ophthalmological Association is a professional association composed of approximately 800 Eye MDs in the State of Texas. The mission of the TOA is to promote and advance the science and art of medicine appertaining to the eye. 

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