These days, it seems like fireworks are being used to celebrate everything from birthdays to New Year’s Eve. Those of us of a “certain age” remember when fireworks were synonymous with the Fourth of July. A day to celebrate the official birthday of the United States.
The Fourth of July conjures up Rockwellian images of Main Street parades, picnics in the park (complete with a band playing patriotic songs in the gazebo!) and, of course FIREWORKS!
These blossoming starbursts elicit oohs and aahs from the multitudes gathered in the balminess of a summer’s night. Eyes raised expectantly to the sky… where, essentially, bombs are exploding.
Sometimes, while we are mesmerized by their magnificence, we forget that fireworks are explosives. They are made from the same black powder that we refer to as “gunpowder”. It is the propellant that sends the fireworks high into the sky where they explode and send pretty, multi-colored shrapnel rocketing through the night sky.
So, this is why the days leading up to Independence Day are filled with dire warnings about fireworks safety. Yet, every year, we hear multiple stories of how someone accidentally blew their fingers off improperly handling fireworks. While these types of injuries are better known, let’s not forget that our eyes – the ones turned in joyous anticipation to the sky – are just as vulnerable.
In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 14% of fireworks injuries involve the eyes. Fireworks-related eye injuries can run the gamut from burns to corneal abrasions to retinal detachments. Some injuries can cause the eye to rupture and, yes, that is as bad as it sounds.
The good news is that some injuries can heal with little to no long-term effects. The bad news is that many of them can cause blindness or worse. And I will leave that to your imagination.
Something else to consider: Thirty-six percent of total fireworks-related injuries happen to children 15 years of age and younger. Children. Manufacturers often attempt to market fireworks as “toys”, targeting the younger set with the allure of blowing stuff up. Even sparklers – as innocuous as they may seem – burn at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Two. Thousand. Degrees. In the same report, the Commission found that sparklers caused 1200 July Fourth injuries. An accident involving sparklers even resulted in the death of a 4-year-old girl in 2017. And the sparklers were being handled by her father.
This also shows that the injured parties are not always the ones handling the fireworks. Innocent bystanders are often hurt, and those injuries can come from professionals who are trained to know what they are doing.
Often, people who attend professional fireworks shows will be injured by flying cinders or other materials ejected by the explosions falling into their eyes. Even if you’re at a safe distance, behind the barriers, the wind can cause things to blow into an unsuspecting crowd.
What this tells us is, even if we follow all the rules, accidents can happen. So. What? We don’t enjoy fireworks, anymore? Oh! Heck no! They are fabulous and beautiful and magical! Enjoy them to your heart’s content!
Just be aware. Attend professional shows and follow the safety rules set forth by the experienced people who present them. And, should something go wrong, seek medical attention immediately!
If your eyes are involved, follow these steps:
Do NOT rub your eyes! This is true of any incident involving a foreign body. Rubbing can cause an object to become deeply imbedded. It can also increase the chance of an abrasion or tear.
Do not apply pressure to the eye. Hold or tape a shield of some kind over the eye. Something that will not press against the eye – the bottom of a plastic cup, for example. This can protect the eye from further damage, especially in the case of children whose natural impulse is to rub.
Most importantly, get the injured party to an emergency facility as quickly as you safely can.
In most cases, the emergency physician will have you follow up with your regular eye doctor as soon as it is feasible. Those of us in the industry know that the days following a fireworks holiday can bring us an unusual number of injuries.
Go on! Enjoy your Fourth of July! Go to the parade! Have a picnic under the trees! Watch the fireworks! Ooh and aah and face the star-spangled skies with the wonderment of a child!
And, if the unexpected happens, Dr Kay and Dr Deweese will be here to help you through it. Just, please! Go to an emergency facility first!
This year, Hollywood Eyes will be closed from July 4th to July 8th. But, if needed, call the office at 954-923-5367. Listen to the voicemail message that Dr Kay has recorded. At the end, he will give a number to call in the case of an emergency.