Fireworks: Use Caution and Have Fun

Summer celebrations often include parades, barbecues, and fireworks. While public displays are usually safe and enjoyable, children and adults must remember that using fireworks at home can be dangerous, according to an ophthalmologist with University of Iowa Health Care.

"Very serious eye injuries can be caused by bottle rockets and Roman candles," says Thomas Weingeist, MD, UI professor and head of ophthalmology. "Parents need to be extremely careful when lighting fireworks, especially when children are around."

While many injuries associated with fireworks occur to the person lighting the fireworks, bystanders also can be hurt by projectile fireworks or debris from explosions.

"Corneal abrasions can occur when particles get into the eye, or ruptured eyeballs can be caused by explosions," Weingeist said.

Bottle rockets, firecrackers, and Roman candles are illegal in Iowa, yet some people purchase these items out-of-state and light them at home or at family gatherings or parties. For those who do partake in fireworks celebrations at home, Weingeist issued the following warnings:

* Don't put bottle rockets or other fireworks in glass bottles.

* Don't light fireworks in areas with debris or underbrush that may catch fire.

* Make sure the fuse or wick is long enough to avoid burns.

* Keep bystanders out of the way.

* Wear protective eye gear, such as safety glasses.

For parents who are lighting fireworks with children around, Weingeist recommended close supervision.

"Always direct such objects away from a child's face and eyes," he said. "Keep in mind that projectile fireworks are not a good idea for kids." He added that injuries can occur from fireworks that are legal in Iowa, such as sparklers.

"Sparklers reach a temperature of 1,800 degrees--hot enough to melt gold," Weingeist said. "They are also sharp and can pierce the eyes."

He noted that the best way to prevent such injuries is to avoid playing with fireworks altogether.

"Watching the public fireworks demonstration in your hometown can be enjoyable and is much safer," he said.

University of Iowa Health Science Relations and Thomas Weingeist, MD