UAB Medicine News


Eye Trauma Tops the List of Fireworks Injuries

Americans spend more than $1 billion annually on fireworks, but the number of injuries suggests that many people are not paying attention to safety warnings and instructions.

Fireworks InjuriesHow big is the problem? On average, 11,000 people in the United States visit an emergency room each year due to a fireworks-related injury, according to the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission. Below are some highlights from data collected on fireworks injuries reported over the past 25 years:

The Eyes Have It

  • One in five fireworks injuries involved some type of eye trauma.
  • One in three eye injuries from fireworks results in blindness in the injured eye.
  • The most common eye injury from fireworks is a burn to the eye surface.
  • Only 10% of people treated for fireworks injuries said they were using protective eyewear.

Fireworks Facts

  • During the past 25 years, over 40% of people injured by fireworks were not using them – they were simply watching.
  • Kids and teens age 10-19 are almost two times more likely to be injured by fireworks than the general population is.
  • When fired horizontally, a bottle rocket travels fast enough to cover the length of a football field in just one second.
  • Even minor eye injuries from fireworks should be treated immediately to prevent further damage or infection, yet almost half of patients waited 12-18 hours before going to an emergency room.

Sparklers Are Not Safe

  • Depending on their size and what materials are used to create various colors, sparklers can reach temperatures of 1,800 to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. About 15-30% of fireworks injuries among children are caused by sparklers.
  • Overconfidence + heat = burn injury. That’s not a scientific formula, but some people may be careless with fireworks – especially sparklers – because they don’t pack a life-threatening explosive force. Still, they can deliver a tremendous amount of heat energy. About 60% of fireworks injuries are caused by burns.
  • Not every injury from a sparkler is caused by a burn. Tiny particles from sparklers lose heat fast, so some of them may not be hot when they reach the eye, but they still can leave behind burned flecks of powdered metal.

UAB Callahan Eye Hospital wishes you a happy and safe Independence Day! Each year, about two-thirds of all fireworks-related eye injuries occur during the weeks before and after the July 4 holiday. UAB Callahan Eye Hospital is a safety sponsor of the 2019 Alabama Bicentennial Fireworks display in the skies above Vulcan Park & Museum, which will celebrate Alabama’s 200 years of statehood. We encourage you to leave fireworks to trained professionals!

Most fireworks-related eye injuries cannot be properly treated at home, so seeking immediate medical help is the safest response. To learn more about UAB Callahan Eye Hospital’s 24/7 Eye Emergency/Eye Trauma Department, visit or call (844) UAB-EYES.

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