Projectiles Can Cause Devastating Eye Injuries 

Be mindful of eye safety during fireworks season.

Every year, approximately 10,000 people are rushed to the emergency department for fireworks injuries. Fireworks are projectiles, as are balls, champagne corks, small toys, BB gun bullets, rubber bullets and more. Every projectile has the potential to injure the eye and cause permanent vision loss.

Many people believe that consumer fireworks are safe. But here’s the explosive truth: Most injuries are caused by legal fireworks that parents buy for their children, such as sparklers, firecrackers, and bottle rockets. Similarly, rubber bullets are sometimes referred to as “non-lethal” by law enforcement agencies, but they can and do cause traumatic eye injuries.

Ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – treat thousands of patients who suffer a range of projectile-related injuries, from cuts and bruises to damaged corneas, retinas, lacerated eyelids, fractured eye sockets and ruptured eyeballs.

“Consumer fireworks are a treasured part of Fourth of July celebrations, so it’s easy to forget the dangers they can pose, particularly to the eyes,” said Mark Mazow, MD, president of Texas Ophthalmological Association. “Please, take our advice. We don’t want to see you in the ER this summer, especially on the Fourth of July.”

To help reduce the number of potentially blinding accidents during the holiday season and all year around, the Texas Ophthalmological Association shares these tips in situations where projectiles might be present:

  • Wear protective eyewear: Ophthalmologists recommend that every household have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear. Stop by any hardware store and pick up some safety glasses for the entire family.

  • Don’t pick up fireworks duds and misfires: When a lit firework didn’t explode, Javonte McNair, 14, walked over and picked it up. The “dud” exploded, severing his hand and blasting hot debris into his eye, causing severe damage to his cornea. Keep a hose and buckets of water on hand for duds and misfires. Soak the dud from a distance with a hose or a bucket of water. Pick it up with a shovel and fully submerge it in a bucket of water to ensure it’s safe for disposal.

  • Keep a safe distance: Bystanders are injured. Stacy Young was 100 yards away when an illegal firework sent shrapnel into her skull. Ophthalmologists couldn’t save her eye. It had to be removed.

  • Supervise children closely: Sparklers seem like harmless fun for the kids, but they are responsible for about 1,400 eye injuries each year. Even those tiny poppers or snappers can pose dangers. A ricocheting popper burned parts of five-year-old Nolan Haney’s eye and eyelid.

TOA urges everyone to exercise situational awareness not only when around fireworks, but also when in large crowds and public events where public and personal safety must be closely guarded.

If you experience an eye injury from a projectile, Dr. Mazow urges you to minimize the damage to the eye:

  • Seek medical attention immediately
  • Do not rub the eye. Rubbing may make the injury worse
  • Do not attempt to rinse the eye
  • Do not apply pressure to the eye
  • Do not remove objects from the eye
  • Do not apply ointments or take pain medications before seeking medical help 

To learn more about eye diseases and eye safety, visit https://www.aao.org/eye-health.