For most Americans, the Fourth of July holiday is marked by traditional backyard barbeques and patriotic fireworks displays. Unfortunately, the fun can be cut short when fireworks are used carelessly and cause serious injuries. All too common firework injuries include eye lacerations, contusions and the existence of foreign materials in the eye. Sparklers alone cause a major percentage of these cases.

“Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks is a highly anticipated American tradition, but safety needs to be the top priority,” said Charles Fitzpatrick, OD, and President of the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians (NJSOP). “Children are especially vulnerable to injury from fireworks, particularly sparklers since they are handled at such close distances.”

According to a study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were the culprit for an estimated 8,800 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during 2009. Of these, 54 percent were children and teens under the age of 20 years and 46 percent were adults.

To help prevent injury during firework season, the NJSOP recommends the following tips to help protect and preserve eyesight during the Fourth of July holiday.

  • Discuss firework safety with children and teens prior to the Fourth of July holiday.
  • Do not allow kids to handle fireworks and never leave them unsupervised near fireworks.
  • Wear protective eyewear when lighting and handling fireworks of any kind.
  • Store fireworks, matches, and lighters in a secure place where children won’t find them.
  • Refrain from purchasing sparklers. Heating up to 1,800 degrees, sparklers are the number one cause of fireworks injuries requiring trips to the emergency room.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and only light fireworks when family, friends and children are at a safe distance.

“If a firework-related eye injury does occur, always follow up with your family eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick “The visit with the optometric physician will help ensure that the injury heals correctly and will continue to monitor for future vision problems.”  

To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on how best to protect your eyes during the Fourth of July holiday, please visit American Optometric Association (AOA) or New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians (NJSOP).