Protect Your Vision When Setting Off Fireworks

A group of people watching a fireworks display.

The 4th of July is just around the corner, which means people across the country are preparing their grills for burgers and brats and buying fireworks to celebrate our nation’s independence. While fireworks can be fun, they can also be extremely dangerous, and every year thousands of people are hospitalized due to firework-related injuries.

July is Eye Injury Prevention Month, designated by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) as a time to remember to protect our eyes and our vision from harm. While most people think eye injuries are most common on the job site, nearly half of all reported eye injuries happen at home while people are cleaning or doing home improvement or yard work projects. You can read more about general eye injury prevention on the AAO website at

As we get ready for this week’s holiday, it’s important to remember to stay safe when lighting fireworks this summer.

According to the federal U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 10,000 Americans were injured from fireworks in 2022, and fireworks caused 11 deaths across the country. About 16% of all fireworks injuries are eye injuries. In severe cases, fireworks-related eye injuries can rupture the eye or cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment. All these injuries can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.

Most fireworks-related injuries and deaths are preventable. Many injuries are the result of mishandling. Make sure they are positioned correctly and are angled away from both you and anyone else watching the fireworks. Never put your face or any other body part directly over a firework while lighting it.

Some injuries come from defects and illegal contents in the firework itself. Even legally bought fireworks can be unsafe. The Commission found that nearly half of the legal fireworks they inspected in 2022 had some form of shortened fuse, banned chemicals, or unsafe levels of explosive materials. That can lead to fireworks going off unexpectedly. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully, and always exercise caution when lighting fireworks, even those legally bought.

Even smaller fireworks can cause devastating injuries if not used properly. Do not allow any young children to play with fireworks, even “safe” fireworks like sparklers. Sparklers can burn at temperatures hotter than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and cause hundreds of injuries every year, many of them among children. If you provide sparklers to older children, make sure they are only used under close adult supervision.

The best way to keep your eyes safe this Independence Day is to attend a professionally run, public fireworks show instead of purchasing your own. When attending a professional fireworks show, make sure to follow all safety instructions and stay at least 500 feet away from wherever the fireworks are being lit.

If you do decide to use your own fireworks at home, there are a few things you can do to help you stay safe. When setting off fireworks, make sure they are lit in a clear area away from your home or other flammable materials. If a firework fails to go off, do not touch it or attempt to relight it. Instead, keep a bucket of water or a water hose nearby to soak the firework before throwing it away.

If you do get an eye injury from a firework, call 911 or seek medical care immediately. Do not rub or rinse your eyes or attempt to remove any objects that are stuck in your eyes on your own. Do not apply any ointment or take any blood thinners, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. While you may think that these steps could help your eyes in the moment, traumatic eye injuries sustained from fireworks need to be treated by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Remember to celebrate safely this 4th of July and protect your eyes so that you can enjoy the fireworks for years to come. You can learn more about protecting your eyes from fireworks on the AAO website at

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