Can Fireworks Harm Your Eyes? How to Stay Safe this Fourth of July

Jun 30, 2023

Fireworks are one of the most exciting and fun traditions associated with the Fourth of July, but did you know that they can be very dangerous? Every year, people are injured by Independence Day festivities that, according to Dr. Beran and Dr. Weber, could have been prevented. In fact, many of those affected by these injuries are children between the ages of four and nine. Because approximately one in six fireworks-related injuries leads to severe vision loss, it is very important to supervise all children who decide to partake in handheld fireworks like sparklers, and to know the risks of other types of festive explosives.

How Fireworks Pose a Risk to the Eyes

While fireworks are advertised like family-friendly toys around the Fourth of July, they pose enough health risks–especially to young adults and children–that they should really be left to the professionals. After all, fireworks have been known to misfire and malfunction more frequently than you might think. No matter how careful you are, you can never predict when an equipment flaw may put you or your loved ones at risk.

Additionally, fireworks can cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions, retinal detachment, and even rupture the globe of the eye. All of these injuries, which are more common than our experts would like, can lead to severe vision loss and are extremely painful. Firecrackers and sparklers are among the most common injury-causing fireworks, since they are most likely to be handled by children and they require close proximity to explosive, hot materials. However, while they may seem like a good, old-fashioned way to have some fun, these fireworks should always be closely supervised when in use.

Best Practices for Firework Safety this Fourth

The best way to avoid a fireworks-related injury is to attend a professional fireworks show and to create a wide berth between yourself and the area where explosives are being handled (at least 500 feet from the barrier, as advised by the American Academy of Ophthalmology). If you notice any unexploded fireworks at one of these events, do not approach or touch them–instead, contact the police or fire department.

While our experts strongly recommend against partaking in fireworks from home, if you do, be sure to keep them away from young children.  Even sparklers, which many consider to be safe for young ones, burn at a very high temperature and can cause horrific burns to the face and eyes, as well as permanent vision loss. Be sure to set off any fireworks in controlled, open, outdoor areas far away from your house and flammable materials like dry leaves or grass. Additionally, ensure everyone around you is far out of range when setting off a firework, and do not try to relight “dud” explosives; rather, thoroughly soak them in water and throw them away. Always keep a bucket of water around for emergencies, and follow the fireworks’ directions closely. Ultimately, fireworks from home are just not very safe, and those impacted by injuries are most often young bystanders. We highly recommend considering a professional fireworks show instead.

If you or someone you know does become injured by fireworks, do not touch, rub, or put anything directly onto the injury. Instead, call 911 for immediate help. Wait for a medical professional to touch the eye in any way, and seek help as fast as possible to preserve vision and eye function.

From our experts at Columbus Laser and Cataract Center, we hope you have a fun and safe Fourth of July!