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Letter: Fireworks and Your Eyes

Fourth of July is almost here.  As we celebrate this great American holiday, ophthalmologists across the country are bracing for a significant increase in eye injuries.

Bottle rockets are the worst, causing two-thirds of all reported fireworks eye injuries. These rockets travel at high speeds and trace an erratic, unpredictable course often hurting bystanders even a few hundred feet from the launch site.  Even more dangerous, a direct hit to the eye can occur when someone tries to relight a bottle rocket while leaning over the bottle.

Two out of three eye injuries from fireworks occur at home.  Three out of four occur in males.  Half are children under age 15. Almost half of all the injured are unsuspecting bystanders.  Fireworks injuries are often severe with half resulting in vision worse than 20/400 (not being able to see the big E on the eye chart). One out of 10 injuries require surgical removal of an eye.  We are talking about severe harm and blindness happening to children and bystanders in and around their own homes.

Even with the supposedly “SAFE” fireworks such as sparklers, severe injuries can occur.  Sparklers burn at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that can melt gold.  They can easily cause third degree burns to skin, severe corneal burns and puncture wounds.  There is a long list of fireworks: firecrackers, sky rockets, sparklers, fountains, spinners, Roman candles, mortars, mines and shells, smoke devices, helicopter and all manner of homemade devices.  None are safe.  None should fall into the hands of children.

If an accident occurs:

Do not delay seeking medical attention, as time is critical for some injuries.

Do not rub the eye, as pressure can cause even greater harm.

Do not attempt to rinse out the eye as this may further damage the eye.

Do not apply ointment, as it is probably not sterile and will impede a doctor’s exam.

Shield the eye from pressure.  Even a foam cup or milk carton will do until proper medical attention.

Most importantly, do not let your child play with fireworks.  Attend a professional display instead.  Happy and Safe Fourth of July.

Joseph Bacotti, M.D.

Richard Luck, D.O.

Joseph Hallak, O.D., PhD

Christopher Lutz, O.D.

Teresa Halliwell, O.D.