Summer is here, and few things are as synonymous with summer in America as Fourth of July fireworks. June is Fireworks Eye Safety Month, and as the month ends and we get ready for Independence Day, now is the perfect time to learn how to keep your eyes safe.

CEENTA Ophthalmologist Pedro Cervantes, MD

“Fireworks are fun and beautiful to watch, but it is important to prevent injuries,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Pedro Cervantes, MD, said. “Every year ERs are inundated with injuries related to fireworks, and an estimated 9 percent of them are eye injuries. The best way to prevent these types of injuries is keeping a safe distance.”

The good news is if a firework goes off correctly in the sky, there is very rarely a risk of significant eye damage as long as people are sitting at least 500 feet from the launch site. However, injuries can still happen, especially if people are too close to the launch site. Eye damage from fireworks can range from minimal to extreme. Injuries can include a rupture of the eyeball, chemical or thermal burns, corneal abrasions, retinal detachment, and bleeding within the eye. All of these can lead to permanent loss of sight if they are severe.

About half the people who are injured by fireworks aren’t handling the explosives themselves, but are just there to watch the show. People should definitely not touch unexploded fireworks, and should instead contact their local fire or police department if they find any.

It’s safe for children and infants to watch fireworks as long as they are the proper distance from them and the launch site. However, people under the age of 15 are some of the most frequently injured by fireworks – up to 35 percent of all injuries – so they shouldn’t handle anything, even sparklers.

Anyone who sustains a fireworks-related eye injury should seek medical attention immediately. They should not rub their eyes, rinse them, apply pressure, remove any objects seen in the eye, apply topical medications, or take any blood-thinning medications like aspirin or ibuprofen.

People launching fireworks or within 500 feet of the launch site should definitely wear safety glasses. A firework that explodes before it leaves the ground can cause severe trauma. People’s eyes can be cut open. Blunt trauma can also be severe and cause significant bleeding inside the eye. The pressure of the eye can also rise, and this can cause significant pain.

You’re going to want to see fireworks for years to come, so knowing how to keep your eyes safe will help ensure those bright bursts of color are only a source of joy and good memories.

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