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Children at risk for fireworks eye injuries

UBA OKEREKE | 6/30/2013, 2:08 a.m.
Brilynn Cole, 3, joins the parade of bikes, wagons and scooters decorated for an annual Fourth of July children's parade in Central Riverside Park in Wichita, Kan., July 4, 2012. Mike Hutmacher of The Wichita Eagle

The Dallas Examiner

The Fourth of July holiday is on the horizon and the barbeque preparations are underway. Fireworks are an annual tradition of Independence Day, but they can also be dangerous. Children and adults are often injured by improper use of fireworks. Of the 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year, 21 percent are eye injuries and more than half of the victims are young children or teenagers.

For example, a 6-year-old child had a cornea transplant after he lit an M-80 firework that he found in his home. Another is a 12-year-old boy who forgot to unwrap the fuse of a fountain firework, making the fuse too short. It exploded almost immediately and blew up in his face, severely injuring his eye.

“Unfortunately, ophthalmologists see a lot of patients with eye injuries this time of year because people forget that fireworks, while fun, are also dangerous,” said Keith A. Bourgeois, M.D., president of the Texas Ophthalmological Association.

Sparklers and bottle rockets are also dangerous to kids. Sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and cause 27 percent of all fireworks injuries.

Errant bottle rockets can cause eyelid lacerations, retinal detachment, rupture of the eyeball, and complete blindness. One in every 6 fireworks-related injuries results in permanent vision loss. So before the celebration begins, follow these fireworks safety tips:

• Never let children play with fireworks of any type.

• View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.

• Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.

• Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.

• If you find unexploded fireworks, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police department.

“If you do plan to use fireworks for a home display, be sure that you and your children wear protective eyewear, clear the area of flammable materials, and keep a safe distance from fireworks when they go off,” Bourgeois urged. “You should also check on whether there is a burn ban in your county, which may prohibit the use of fireworks.”

If you experience an eye injury during a fireworks accident, seek immediate help. For more fireworks safety tips or to find an ophthalmologist in your area, visit http://www.geteyesmart.com.