Lurie Children’s Pediatric Eye Specialists: Using Fireworks ‘Not Worth the Risk’

While burns and injuries to the hands, fingers, arms and legs are the most common injuries associated with fireworks, Lurie Children’s pediatric eye specialists say families should be aware of the possible dangers from fireworks to the eyes. 

Indeed, the Fourth of July is the busiest holiday for Lurie Children’s ophthalmologists “because of fireworks,” says Jennifer Rossen, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist and surgeon at Lurie Children’s. Learn more about fireworks and eye injuries below with Dr. Rossen and Elizabeth Powell, MD, MPH, a physician in the emergency department at Lurie Children’s.

What makes fireworks so dangerous?

The tendency to move close to a firework when it’s not functioning properly, fireworks’ unpredictable trajectories, and the possibility of fireworks hitting other things that can cause them to fly into eyes are all factors that make them extremely dangerous, Dr. Rossen said.

Why types of eye injuries can fireworks lead to?

Dr. Rossen said injuries from fireworks can include cuts to the cornea, injury and bruising to the eyelid, or even loss of an eye.

“Due to the force and speed of fireworks, eye injuries are often more severe requiring some kind of surgical intervention,” Dr. Rossen said.

Who is at risk for fireworks injuries?

Every year, more than 3,000 children under age 15 in the U.S. are sent to the emergency room because of fireworks, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit that aims to help keep kids safe from injuries.

 Furthermore, the number of total reported fireworks-related injuries and deaths to people of all ages rose by 50 percent from 2019 to 2020, when more people were using fireworks at home with canceled public displays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Powell, citing a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

About fifteen percent of fireworks injuries each year affect the eyes, according to a 2020 report from the U.S. CPSC.

With some types of fireworks, people near the person lighting them off are at higher risk than the person lighting it, Dr. Rossen said, adding that she has a patient she sees annually who sustained eye injury from a firework that someone else ignited.

How can fireworks be enjoyed safely, if at all?

Dr. Rossen encourages families to celebrate the holiday other ways than using fireworks at home.

“It’s not worth the risk. If you are near someone lighting off a firework, wear safety goggles, but it’s best to not to be in that situation,” she said.

Attending a public celebration, lead by professionals, in the community is likely the safest option for families who want to experience fireworks, said Dr. Powell.

The National Safety Council offers the following fireworks safety tips for those that live in places where use of fireworks is legal and choose to use them:

  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks
  • Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear
  • Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
  • Never light them indoors
  • Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person
  • Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
  • Never use illegal fireworks

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