Fourth of July Dos and Don’ts: American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Offers Reminders of What to Do in the Case of an Eye Injury

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It is best to leave fireworks to the professionals, but here are some safety tips on what to do if you or someone near you receives an eye injury this Fourth of July.

Fireworks are synonymous with Independence Day celebrations, but the thrill of fireworks can cause serious eye injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports about 200 Americans suffer eye-related injuries on a daily basis in the month and around the July Fourth holiday. What should you do if you or someone in your care is injured?

"The two most basic types of injuries that occur related to fireworks: traumatic injuries and chemical/thermal burns," said Eric Donnenfeld, MD, top cornea specialist and president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. “Traumatic injuries can lacerate or embed foreign material inside of the eye while chemical or thermal burns can scorch your eye’s delicate tissues, causing permanent vision loss or blindness. Bleeding around the eye, loss of vision, and an irregular pupil are all signs of trauma, and, often times, the manner in which a serious injury is handled during the first minutes can determine the visual outcome.”

The first thing to remember is that fireworks are dangerous, and they are better left to the professionals. But if fireworks injure you or someone near you, Dr. Donnenfeld suggests you consider these eye safety tips:

Tip 1: The most important concept is to not make the injury worse. Do not attempt to remove a foreign particle embedded in the eye and do not let the injured party rub the eye as this can cause significant damage.

Tip 2: Next, hold the patient’s hands to prevent them from rubbing their eye and ask them to refrain from squeezing the eye closed as well. Place a protective shield over the eye − consider using a Styrofoam cup that is cut down to about 3 inches and can be taped over the eye.

Tip 3: As with any serious ocular injury, bring the patient to an ophthalmologist’s office or emergency room immediately for expert management and treatment. Keep in mind: some serious eye-injury patients will require emergency surgery, so do not allow them to eat or drink anything while in transit as it may delay the ability to provide anesthesia.

Tip 4: For chemical injuries and burns of the eye, immediately wash out the eye with purified water. If sterile fluid is not available, use tap or pool water as an alternative. Flushing out the eye with water dilutes the chemicals and reduces the thermal damage. After irrigation, again, seek medical help immediately.

Fourth of July can be a fun time with great memories, but safety should always be your top priority. If not handled properly, fireworks can cause burns and eye injuries in children and adults. The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home — period. Leave the risk to the professionals by attending a public fireworks display and the professionals should always wear protective, shatterproof glasses or goggles.

The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery is an international, educational society with more than 9,000 members. Its mission is to advance the art and science of ophthalmic surgery and the knowledge and skills of ophthalmic surgeons by providing clinical and practice management education and by working with patients, government, and the medical community to promote the delivery and advancement of high-quality eye care.

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