Eye Doctors Offer Fireworks Safety Tips

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THURSDAY, July 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- If you and your family like fireworks, the best way to enjoy them is by watching displays staged by professionals, according to eye doctors.

In 2012, about 8,700 Americans were injured by fireworks, and more than 1,000 of those cases involved eye injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most of the fireworks-related injuries occurred in the 30-day period before and after the Fourth of July.

While you may be tempted to put on your own show, it's "better to just leave the fireworks alone and go to a show ... and let the professionals do it. That's the safest thing," Dr. Jay McCollum, an ophthalmologist and director of emergency services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Callahan Eye Hospital, said in a university news release.

Dr. Priscilla Fowler, an assistant professor in the university's ophthalmology department and director of the cornea service, agrees. "Being a cornea specialist, I've seen too many injuries related to fireworks," she said in the news release. "And many of these occur in children and innocent bystanders and result in permanent vision loss."

If you decide to have fireworks at home anyway, the doctors offered a number of tips to reduce the risk of injury, burns and eye damage.

  • Read and follow all manufacturer's instructions. Do not use fireworks that have no instructions or product labels. These fireworks may have been made illegally and may be unsafe.
  • Light fireworks on a clean, flat surface away from the house or flammable materials.
  • Light only one item at a time. Never try to re-light fireworks that did not ignite or explode the first time.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher present in case of fire.
  • Never throw fireworks at other people, carry fireworks in your pocket, shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers, experiment with or modify fireworks, make your own fireworks, or use bottle rockets.
  • Never allow children to play with fireworks, even sparklers. Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees F, which is hot enough to melt gold.
  • In the event of an eye injury, do not touch, rub or press on the injured eye. Seek immediate medical care.

More information

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has more about fireworks.