Pediatric Ophthalmology Consultants

Fireworks and Eye Injuries

Fireworks have a place in many of our patriotic and religious celebrations but every year someone, often a child, loses an eye or suffers a serious eye injury as a result of handling or being close to fireworks.

Ideally, fireworks should be enjoyed by watching public displays but realistically individuals will probably continue to buy them for home use. Although half the states restrict the sale of fireworks to sparklers and other none-explosive types, dangerous fireworks are often brought into these states illegally.

Although there appears to be an endless variety of fireworks, all packaged to attract our attention and capture our imagination, there are five major types: firecrackers, sparklers, fountains, roman candles and rockets. Rockets are often called bottle rockets because the stem is designed to be placed in a pop bottle which serves as a launching pad.

Each of these devices can blind, burn or abrade the eye, but rockets are particularly dangerous. They have an erratic flight path, impact forcibly, and can blow up in your face as you are lighting them. The bottles containing them sometimes explode as well.

Firecrackers and rockets also tend to make attractive devices for war games and horseplay and often cause injury. Fireworks are definitely not toys and small children should never be allowed to play with them.

If fireworks are to be used, several precautions should be observed

  • Adult supervision is essential.
  • Wear eye glasses or goggles for protection.
  • Place a bucket of water nearby to put out fires or douse those devices which don’t work (duds).
  • Read the manufacture’s label and follow the directions.
  • Ignite fireworks outdoors and only one at a time.
  • Dispose of used fireworks properly.

A few don’ts are also in order

  • Don’t give fireworks to small children.
  • Don’t stand to close to fireworks.
  • Don’t ignite fireworks indoors.
  • Don’t put them in pockets.
  • Don’t try to relight duds or make homemade fireworks.
  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology, in conjunction with the National Society to Prevent Blindness, the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Marshall’s Association of North America and the American Academy of Pediatrics, is working to strengthen fireworks regulation, improve enforcement of state laws and educate the public regarding the hazards of fireworks.

Despite these efforts, each Fourth of July, the improper use of fireworks causes thousands of accidents and eye injuries. The best cure is prevention but in the event of an eye injury, an ophthalmologist (a medical eye doctor) should be consulted immediately.

American Academy of Ophthalmology

The Eye M.D Association


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