HOLLAND, Mich. -- Think back to celebrating Independence Day when you were a kid: patriotism, picnics, parades. And as soon as the sun went down, the sparklers lit up.
Experts tell us even those sparklers aren't safe.
Though the most disabling injuries occur with illegal fireworks, the greatest number of injuries are caused by legal fireworks that parents buy for their kids. Of the 10,000 emergency room visits from fireworks injuries, most involve children suffering from eye injuries.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Saba Kadlec at Holland Eye Surgery and Laser Centerand the American Academy of Ophthalmology are debunking common myths about fireworks injuries.
- Sparklers are safe for young children. (FALSE) Dr. Kadlec says the most typical eye injury from a firework is a thermal burn to the cornea but can be as basic as a foreign body flying off the sparkler and into the eye. Both can cause permanent damage. Sparklers burn at 1,800 degrees, hot enough to melt certain metals. "People think sparklers are a lot more benign," Dr. Kadlec said. "They'll hand them to children, but children should not handle fireworks."
- It's safer to view fireworks than it is to light them. (FALSE) Dr. Kadlec says bystanders are injured by fireworks as often as operators. As fireworks are shot into the air, people try to get the best view of fireworks and think sitting directly under is a good idea. But when you're looking up like that with no eye protection, you can get cinders and ashes and foreign bodies in your eye.
- It's safe to pick up a dormant firework after it has been lit. (FALSE) It may act like a dud, but it might not be one.
The best way to avoid eye injuries is wearing protective glasses. "We always encourage eye protection if you're the one directly handling or setting up fireworks," said Dr. Kadlec. "It could be something as simple as sunglasses or your regular glasses, just something between you and the firework itself."
If for some reason material flies into your eye, don't rub, rinse or try to remove anything.
If you feel pain, are having trouble seeing, have an unusual pupil size or you're not able to open your eye, get to your ophthalmologist right away.
Signs of an eye injury could be subtle and could result in permanent vision loss if treatment is delayed.