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Celebrate the Fourth of July Safely: Preventing Eye Injuries From Fireworks


Submitted by the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center

With patriotic banners, apple pie, picnics and, of course, fireworks, the Fourth of July is a favorite American holiday. Yet mishaps with fireworks can make the holiday memorable for all the wrong reasons.

It’s estimated that nearly 5,200 Americans spent part of their Fourth of July 2012 holiday in the emergency room due to fireworks injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Of those, 600 were injuries to the eye, including contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eye. Some injuries even caused permanent vision loss.

“I’ve treated many eye injuries associated with fireworks,” said Dr. Leonardo Antaris, an ophthalmologist at Quad Cities Retina Consultants who is part of the network of experienced surgeons who frequently perform outpatient procedures at the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center. “Most involve kids who treat the fireworks as ordinary toys. They get too close, or as part of their playing, throw fireworks at each other. Seldom is eye protection worn and there is seldom any adult supervision.”

Surgery is sometimes necessary to repair a corneal laceration and to prevent further damage to the eye, as well as to remove any foreign object that may have remained in the eye after the trauma. Severe lacerations can require several surgeries for repair and can result unrepairable vision loss.

Seven Tips to Prevent Fireworks Injuries
According to Dr. Antaris, the key to preventing eye injuries is proper education. He recommends following these seven simple prevention guidelines:

  1. Wear safety goggles. Regular eyeglasses are not adequate, and safety goggles won’t prevent other injuries such as burns.
  2. If you give kids sparklers, make sure they keep them outside and away from the face, clothing, and hair. Sparklers can reach 1,800° Fahrenheit (982° Celsius) — hot enough to melt gold.
  3. Only use fireworks outside and away from any objects and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of accidents.
  4. Back away − fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction. Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even for fun.
  5. Don’t hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body near the firework while lighting.
  6. Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush, leaves, and flammable substances.
  7. Light one firework at a time (not in glass or metal containers), and never relight a dud firework.

Seven Tips to Help Save an Eye if Injury Does Occur
If an injury does occur, Dr. Antaris recommends the following steps to minimize potential damage:

  1. Do not delay medical attention, even for seemingly mild injuries. “Mildly” damaged areas can worsen and end in serious vision loss, even blindness that might not have happened if treatment had occurred immediately.
  2. Stay calm, and do not panic — especially if a child has been injured.
  3. Do not rub the eye or injured area. If any eye tissue is torn, rubbing might push out the eye’s contents and cause more damage. Trying to rub the eye is an automatic response to pain, but pressure will only do more harm. Keep the victim’s hands away from his or her face.
  4. Do not rinse out the eye. This can be even more damaging than rubbing.
  5. Shield the eye from any pressure. Tape or secure the bottom of a foam cup, milk carton or similar shield against the bones surrounding the eye: brow, cheek and bridge of the nose to protect the injured area.
  6. Avoid giving aspirin or ibuprofen (or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called “N-SAIDS”) to try to reduce the pain. These medications thin the blood and might increase bleeding. Acetaminophen is the over-the-counter drug of choice. Unfortunately, non-prescription painkillers will not be of much help. It is better to bypass the drugstore or medicine cabinet and get to the emergency room right away.
  7. Do not apply ointment or any medication to the affected area. Ointments are most often not sterile, and make the eye area slippery, which can slow the doctor’s examination at a time when every second counts.

To learn more about the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center, go to their website: www.mvhealth.net, or visit Facebook at facebook.com/MississippiValleySurgeryCenter.

To learn more about Quad Cities Retina Consultants, call 563-326-8181.