UAB Medicine News


How to Respond to an Eye Injury from Fireworks – and What Not to Do

Fireworks Safety

Four people died and over 11,100 people were injured by fireworks in 2016, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. About 70% of those injuries occurred around the Independence Day holiday. As the safety sponsor of Birmingham’s Thunder on the Mountain, UAB Callahan Eye Hospital is focused on preventing eye injuries from fireworks.

Eye injuries are among the most common form of firework injuries and can include burns, bruises, cuts, and foreign bodies in the eye. UAB Callahan Eye Hospital ophthalmologist Tyler Hall, MD, says most firework injuries occur when people use them at home without proper safety precautions.

Tips for at-home firework safety:

  • Always wear safety glasses.
  • A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities, and fireworks should never be given to children.
  • Stand at least 20 feet from where the firework is ignited.
  • Always read the instructions on the packages before using fireworks.
  • Always have a water bucket or water hose nearby.
“People should know that we recommend leaving fireworks to the professionals, but if they must use or be around fireworks, the experts at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital will be ready to help them 24/7 should an injury occur,” Dr. Hall says.

What should you do if an injury occurs?

Dr. Hall says the best response to a firework injury is to seek medical attention immediately.

“The most common misconception people have is that the injury is not that serious and can wait for treatment,” Dr. Hall says. “Often people will rinse their eye out with water or rub their eye, but both of these can cause further damage.”

If a foreign body gets in your eye, don’t try to take it out; leave that to the professionals, he says.

“These injuries almost never can be adequately treated at home,” Dr. Hall says. “Secondary infections may develop if the affected eye is not properly treated with antibiotics. Removing an object from the eye is a delicate task that is only possible by viewing the eye with a microscope.”

Follow these steps if an eye injury occurs:

  1. Call 911 immediately. Ask to be taken to UAB Callahan Eye Hospital, the region’s only Level 1 Ocular Trauma Center with a 24/7 eye emergency department.
  2. Before the ambulance arrives, cover the eye with the bottom portion of a disposable foam or plastic cup, using tape to hold it in place. This protects the injured eye from further damage and accidental rubbing.
  3. The sooner the patient seeks treatment, the better the chance of preventing permanent eye damage.

Things NOT to do after an eye injury:

  • Do not rub, rinse, or apply pressure to the eye.
  • Do not try to remove any foreign bodies stuck in the eye.
  • Do not take blood-thinning pain medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Do not stop to buy medicine.
  • Do not wait to get professional help.
Learn more about UAB Callahan Eye Hospital here.

Click here to more about Thunder on the Mountain.

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