The next few weeks are the most dangerous of the year for eye injuries, as so many people — including kids — will be playing with fireworks. Urbandale optometrist Beth Triebel says it’s unfortunate, but eye injuries become very common just before, during and after the Fourth of July holiday, especially burns around the eyes, eyelashes and eyebrows. “Occasionally, we can get a burn directly on the front of the eye or the cornea,” Dr. Triebel says. “You can also have more severe injuries, depending upon how close you are, that could cause things like cataracts, retinal detachments or even blindness.”
There are more nerve endings on the front of the eye than anywhere else on the body, so she says even a very slight injury can be extremely painful. While most fireworks are illegal in Iowa, sparklers are available for purchase at all sorts of locations in the state, yet Triebel says they’re also one of the most dangerous products on the market.
“Sparklers are so common but they are the most common cause of an injury and why people go to emergency rooms,” Triebel says. “It’s really important, if you have a choice, either to not use them or really make sure you’re under good supervision and not letting the kids run off with them without keeping a close eye on them.”
Sparklers burn at about 1,200 degrees, which is nearly 1,000 degrees more than the boiling point of water, double the heat to burn wood, and hot enough to melt glass. If you do plan to set off fireworks, Triebel says you should follow the lead of the pyrotechnics professionals who launch big displays and wear protective eyewear. “If you are getting some and you’re going to set off a show in your back yard, you really should be thinking about that, too,” Triebel says. “Because this is one of the most common injuries and if you’re going to be handling those fireworks, you really need to be thinking about how you’re going to protect yourself and that would certainly be an important part.”
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission reports there were 8,700 injuries caused by fireworks treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2012. Of those, a vast majority were treated between June 22 and July 22, while children younger than 15 sustained about 30-percent of the injuries.