Injuries due to fireworks sent approximately 5,000 Americans to the emergency room during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July (June 20-July 20) in 2008, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). About 1,000 of those injuries were to the eyes, including contusions, lacerations, debris in the eyes and burns.
Unfortunately, children under the age of 15 accounted for 40 percent of the total injuries (7,000). And, fireworks injure bystanders more often then they injure the people who set off the fireworks.
Parents need to understand that even fireworks that are approved for consumer use are still dangerous. In fact, nine out of ten fireworks injuries that required emergency medical attention were approved by Federal regulations.
"We want families to be aware of the dangers posed by fireworks," said Sherry Williams, President and CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio.
"Novelty items such as sparklers and bottle rockets are the greatest cause of eye injuries requiring hospitalization. Sparklers burn at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and account for more than half of the fireworks injuries in young children under age five."
Prevent Blindness Ohio offers the Safe Summer Celebrations guide free to parents that offers tips on how to keep the Fourth of July fun, festive and safe for children.
Some suggestions are:
- After the sun goes down, wrap flashlights in colored cellophane to provide fun shades of light.
- Purchase non-toxic glo-sticks, glo-ropes and glo-jewelry that can safely light the night for kids.
- Create your own noisemakers by banging wooden spoons on pots and pans. Search your house for horns, whistles and bells and other items to create a marching band.
- Make your own firecracker sounds by popping bubble wrap.
- Using yarn, craft sticks, paint and construction paper, families can make the United States flag.
- Make 4th of July rockets by using paper towel rolls, paint, streamers and paper cement.
- Let kids create in the kitchen by making fun desserts using blueberries, strawberries and whipping cream for star-spangled treats.
- Have children design and decorate their own t-shirts and hats using glow in the dark paints. Add puffy paints and glitter to make them sparkle.
- Use hypoallergenic face paint or make-up to make designs on your child's face. Adults should apply the face paint and remove it with cold cream or eye make-up remover instead of soap. Follow product guidelines about applying product directly around the eyes.
Prevent Blindness Ohio has these tips to help prevent fireworks-related injuries:
- Do not purchase, use or store fireworks of any type.
- Be aware that even sparklers are dangerous and cause one half of fireworks injuries in children five years old and younger.
- Protect yourself, your family and your friends by avoiding fireworks.
- Attend only authorized public fireworks displays conducted by licensed operators, but be aware that even professional displays can be dangerous.
- Support policies that ban the importation, general sale and indiscriminate usage of fireworks by children and adults.
The Ohio Eye Care Coalition offers the following guidance in responding to eye injuries:
- Do not delay medical attention, even for seemingly mild injuries. "Mild" injuries can worsen and end in vision loss or even blindness that might not have occurred had a doctor provided treatment early on.
Do not rub the eye nor attempt to rinse out the eye. Instead, shield the eye from pressure. Tape or secure the bottom of a foam cup, milk carton or similar shield against the bones surrounding the eye, including the brow, cheek and bridge of the nose.
- Avoid giving aspirin or ibuprofen to try to reduce the pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs thin the blood and might increase bleeding. Acetaminophen is the over-the-counter drug of choice.
- Do not apply ointment or any medication. It is probably not sterile. Also, ointments make the eye area slippery, which could slow the doctor's examination at a time when every second counts.
There are three types of fireworks in Ohio, all of which are hazardous:
- Trick and novelty items such as sparklers and snakes that can be legally sold and used by anyone;
- exhibitor fireworks which require a license to sell, purchase and use;
- and consumer class fireworks such as bottle rockets and roman candles, which require a license to sell.
Consumer fireworks can be purchased by anyone over the age of 18, but must be removed from the state within a certain timeframe and cannot be legally discharged in Ohio.
Prevent Blindness Ohio supports the development and enforcement of bans on the importation, sale and use of all fireworks and sparklers, except those used in authorized public displays by competent licensed operators. The group believes it is the only effective means of eliminating the social and economic impact of fireworks-related trauma and damage.
For a free copy of the Safe Summer Celebrations brochure or other fireworks safety information, please call Prevent Blindness Ohio at 800-301-2020 or visit www.pbohio.org. You can also share your creative, safe Fourth of July ideas with other parents at facebook.com/starpupils.
Prevent Blindness Ohio, founded in 1957, is Ohio's leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to preventing blindness and preserving sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 800,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight.
Prevent Blindness Ohio is an affiliate of Prevent Blindness America, the country's second-oldest national voluntary health organization. For more information or to make a contribution, visit our website at www.pbohio.org or call 800-301-2020.
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