Eye Care, Safety

A warm summer breeze swirls across the grassy hill as fireflies flicker overhead. The smells of watermelon, brownies, and grilled hot dogs waft across your picnic blanket. You snuggle next to your family with the perfect view of the Fourth of July fireworks show…and then BOOM! A shrill scream cuts through the peaceful night, and a man is writhing in the grass, covering his face.

Every year, fireworks injure thousands of people. Eleven people died and more than 10,200 were seriously injured in 2022 in the United States alone, according to the most recent fireworks injury report (PDF) from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of people injured by fireworks were bystanders, according to one study.

Most fireworks injuries happen between mid-June and mid-July. As a resident taking ophthalmology call at a level-one trauma center in San Antonio, I received four consults from the emergency room in less than thirty minutes, each call regarding a fireworks injury to the eye. The last of the four patients ended up losing his eye from the injury.

Fireworks are fun, but they are very dangerous. Even sparklers and firecrackers cause injuries. If you want to keep you and your family safe, leave fireworks to the professionals. All users and bystanders should wear eye protection that meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) criteria.

Fireworks safety at home

If you decide to use consumer fireworks in states where they are legal, follow these safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Do not allow young children to play with fireworks. Sparklers, a firework often considered “safe” for children, burn at extremely high temperatures (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) and should be NOT be handled by young children. Children may not understand the danger involved with fireworks and may not act appropriately while using the devices or in case of emergency.
  • All users and bystanders should wear eye protection that meets the criteria set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
  • Close adult supervision is required at all times when older children or teens use fireworks.
  • Do not allow any running or horseplay.
  • Set off fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and other flammable materials.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that fail to ignite or explode.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning or “dud” fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Make sure all other people are at least 500 feet away before lighting fireworks.
  • Never light fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Check instructions for special storage directions.
  • Observe local laws.
  • Never hover any body part over a firework while lighting.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

*Thank you to the American Academy of Ophthalmology for these tips and more helpful information on summer eye safety.

Drones: the new fireworks?

I enjoy a great fireworks display, especially at the ballpark or shore. But have you ever seen a drone show? Think fireworks minus the explosions, plus a myriad of aerial robots. Check out this Philadelphia-themed drone show at Citizens Bank Park. (Thanks to YouTube user Brice for this video).

Don’t be that guy or gal

Be smart. Don’t be that person who causes significant injury or blindness to themselves or others by misusing fireworks. You could end up in a hospital, in a jail, or in a morgue. Don’t be that person. If you want to be the hero of your backyard barbecue, then bring a Primo Hoagie party platter instead.

Thanks for reading, and happy Fourth of July week!

Jonathan Corsini, MD