Friday, July 2, 2010

Staying Safe This Weekend

Fireworks are one of the highlights of the Fourth of July holiday. However in the blink of an eye, a mistake can tragically turn their beauty into permanent injury, eye damage or blindness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008, seven people died and an estimated 7,000 were treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in the United States. The CDC estimates that 60 percent of fireworks injuries occur this weekend.

Adults are not the only ones injured from these kinds of accidents. More than four out of every 10 people hurt is a child under 15. More boys than girls are injured.

Bottle rockets, roman candles and sparklers accounted for most of the burns, wounds and “shrapnel.” Most of the problems were to the hands, then eyes and finally the face. In many cases, permanent scarring occurred.

Of those injuries, nearly 1,500 were eye related in the same one-month time frame.

“Fireworks can cause painful eye injuries such as corneal burns or corneal abrasions,” explains Gerami D. Seitzman, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Sinai Hospital. “They can also cause blindness if an explosive particle were to travel into the eye and damage the delicate structures required for sight.”

The best thing you can do is let professionals set off the fireworks and watch the display from at least a quarter-of-a-mile away. Children should be closely supervised around fireworks. Parents should remember that sparklers can be more than 1,000 degrees AND can ignite clothing.

“If the worst happens and someone suffers an eye-related injury, do not attempt to remove a foreign body from the eye,” warns Dr. Seitzman. “It is best to simply cover the eye with a shield or sunglasses and immediately take the person to the emergency room.”

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