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Keep your eyes safe during fireworks displays

Clinicians at OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute remind the public to protect their vision during Independence Day festivities

About 12,900 people in the U.S. are injured by fireworks last year, and about 14 percent of those specifically received eye injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Such eye injuries included cuts, bruises and debris in the eye, and caused impaired vision in some cases.

“Fireworks blind Americans nearly every year in July,” said J. Peter Campbell, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine and a surgeon at the Casey Eye Institute. “On the Fourth of July, I strongly recommend enjoying professional firework displays, but avoiding the risk of using them at home.”

But if members of the public choose to organize their own displays, Campbell provides these tips to avoid eye injuries:

  • Never allow children to play with or near fireworks. Children and bystanders are more likely to be injured than those who light fireworks.
  • Wear protective eyewear that meets American National Standards Institute guidelines. Regular prescription glasses, sunglasses or contact lenses provide little or no protection, and can contribute to an injury.
  • Sparklers, which can heat up to about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, were the leading known cause of fireworks-related injuries and also caused one death in 2017.

What to do if an eye injury occurs

  • Do not rub the injured eye, as that can cause additional damage.
  • Do not rinse the eye, as that can cause additional damage.
  • Shield the eye. To prevent yourself or your child from rubbing or pressing on the eye, make a homemade shield by taping the bottom of a cup over the eye.
  • Do not apply ointment because the medication may not be sterile and could prevent a physician from examining an injury.


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