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Opthalmologists Say Leave Fireworks to Professionals this Fourth of July

INDIANAPOLIS – Would you let your child play with a device that could reach 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit? It happens every year during Fourth of July celebrations held to observe patriotism, family gatherings and the official start of summer.

Sparklers, a mainstay of many Fourth of July celebrations, can reach that temperature. Along with other consumer fireworks, sparklers caused more than half of the fireworks injuries reported in Indiana in 2009, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

“Never give your child a firework as a plaything,” advised Daniel Neely, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Riley Hospital for Children.

“Fireworks exhibits are best left to professionals. Adults, and particularly children, should not play with these devices that can cause eye injuries, burns and bruises,” Neely said. “It’s important to remember that fireworks are not safe, and improper use can result in serious injury. While the pyrotechnic display can be spectacular, the potential for injury and perhaps vision loss presents a significant risk.”

In Indiana, 116 fireworks injuries were reported in 2009, with half of those involving children. The most commonly reported injuries from fireworks are those to the hands; almost one of every six reported injuries involved the eyes, according to the ISDH report. More than 60 percent of the injuries were received during private fireworks displays put on at home.

Nationally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that nearly 5,000 fireworks-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments between June 20, 2008 and July 20, 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. For children under 5 years old, sparklers accounted for the largest number of estimated injuries at 200, which was almost one-third of the total injuries for that age group. Children 5 to 14 years old also had an estimated 200 injuries from sparklers, the CPSC report said.

“Don’t let a fun-filled day turn into a tragic event because of children – or adults – playing with fireworks,” Dr. Neely cautioned. “Children, especially those under age 5, don’t have the physical coordination to handle fireworks and may become frightened. Other children may suffer injuries because of curiosity about how the device burns or is ignited.”

Injuries can occur when the fireworks are improperly used, explode earlier or later than expected, take an errant flight path or throw sparks or debris, the ISDH report said. If you choose to use fireworks at home, follow these safety tips from The American Academy of Ophthalmology, Prevent Blindness America, and the CPSC:

  • Prevent Indianapolis children from handling fireworks
  • Adults using fireworks should read and follow all warning labels and instructions
  • Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
  • Keep fireworks away from houses and flammable materials
  • View fireworks from a safe distance – at least 500 feet away
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby
  • Do not attempt to relight or handle any fireworks that have malfunctioned
  • Pay attention to where people are standing and sitting when lighting fireworks
  • Seek medical help immediately if you are injured

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The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, currently under construction on the Indiana University – Purdue University (IUPUI) campus, will become the new home of the Department of Ophthalmology in 2011. For more than 100 years, doctors and staff in the Department have provided excellent patient care, educated physicians, advanced clinical and biomedical research in vision sciences and offered humanitarian service to the citizens of Indiana. Learn more about the Department of Ophthalmology at www.iueye.iu.edu

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