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Richard Meetz
IU School of Optometry

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fireworks: Ooo, ahh, ouch!

Sparklers burn hot enough to melt gold, inches from little hands and faces

JUNE 30, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Children make up a disproportionate number of people injured by fireworks, so parents need to take special care to keep their children safe this holiday weekend, said Dr. Richard Meetz, clinical associate professor in the Indiana University Bloomington School of Optometry.

Sparklers, which burn hot enough to melt gold, are the usual culprit. They are the only fireworks that are hand-held when they are burning, and they are held by little hands on short arms. In addition, young children are less likely to wear eyeglasses which may afford some protection. Eye injures from sparklers can include surface burns, abrasions leading to scars, and possibly, loss of vision.

Older children, usually boys, are more likely to be injured by bottle rockets and firecrackers. It is not unheard of for kids to throw firecrackers or shoot bottle rockets at each other. "Here is a greater potential for loss of sight and even the eye itself," Meetz said.

Parental supervision is essential. The following tips can help reduce the risk of fireworks-related injuries:

  • It is best not to let your child play with fireworks. However, if they do, supervise young children closely and keep all bystanders at a safe distance.
  • Have them use gloves, wear long pants and use eye protection such as goggles when handling fireworks, especially sparklers. Sparklers should be doused in water when they have stopped burning.

National health statistics show nearly 9,000 emergency room visits for injuries due to fireworks in 2002. In 2003, Indiana legislation required health personnel to report all injuries resulting from fireworks. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, nearly 500 fireworks-related injuries were reported last year in Indiana. Of these:

  • Sparklers, bottle rockets and firecrackers were associated with 64 percent of injuries.
  • Children and adolescents were involved in 52 percent of injuries, with 57 percent of these happening in the presence of an adult.
  • Burns made up 71 percent of the injuries, with burns of the hands (42 percent) and face (18 percent) the most common.
  • Of the burns, 49 percent were second degree burns.
  • Eyes were involved in 21 percent of injuries; 88 percent of those injured had no eye protection.
  • Use of fireworks on private property accounted for 76 percent of the reported injuries; 15 percent of those involved bystanders.
  • The four-day Fourth of July holiday period accounted for 72 percent of fireworks injuries.

If a fireworks-related injury does occur, apply burn first aid and seek health care without delay. If the eye is involved:

  • DO NOT rub the eye or attempt to rinse it out.
  • DO NOT apply any pressure to the eye or try to apply any ointment.
  • Use half of a foam cup taped over the eye to protect it from further contact or injury.
  • Seek care immediately from your eye doctor or emergency room.

Meetz can be reached at 812-855-7063 and For more information on fireworks-related injuries, see the ISDH Web site or contact Prevent Blindness Indiana at 800-331-2020.