Ponte Vedra doctor: Watch out for firework eye injuries this New Year’s Eve


Special to the Recorder

Seeing the ball drop in Times Square is a favorite New Year’s tradition, but if you’re thinking about setting off your own fireworks to celebrate the start of 2017, you may want to consider your eye safety.

According to the CDC, New Year’s Eve and Independence Day are the two most common times of the year for fireworks injuries – especially when it comes to the eyes. Thousands of people, many of them children, suffer eye injuries from fireworks each year that can lead to permanent damage or vision loss. By being smart about how you celebrate, though, you can ensure the safety of your family and friends this holiday season.

Should You Use Fireworks?

Aside from most fireworks being illegal for consumer use in Florida, they have some other serious drawbacks. It’s definitely a case of use at your own risk, but before you do, it’s important to know what those risks are.

Fireworks can cause a variety of injuries, including burns, lacerations and foreign objects in the eye. In the most severe cases, fireworks-related eye injuries can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment – all of which can lead to permanent eye damage.

Unfortunately, even the smaller, legal fireworks, such as sparklers, fountains, glow worms and snakes, can pose significant threats. Surprisingly, most eye injuries are caused by sparklers, bottle rockets and firecrackers. Injuries from these small fireworks are especially common in children, who make up 40 percent of people injured by fireworks, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Even if you are not handling fireworks, you can be in danger as a bystander. Nearly half of fireworks injuries happen to people just watching.

How to stay safe

You can ensure the safety of your eyes by attending a public fireworks show with professional pyrotechnicians. However, if you do attend a display, make sure to respect safety barriers and don’t touch unexploded fireworks if you find one.

If you do decide to use consumer fireworks, never let young children play with them. Even sparklers are dangerous, as they burn at about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals. Although it may seem dramatic, those who handle fireworks should put on protective eyewear.

What to do in an emergency

When there is a fireworks-related eye injury, seek medical attention immediately and do not rub, rinse or apply pressure to your eyes. If there is a foreign object in the eye, don’t take it out. If you sustain an eye injury, it’s best to cover the eye with a plastic shield or protective glasses, but do not put a patch or anything that may put direct pressure on the eye.

By following proper precautions, you can avoid nearly all eye injuries this New Year’s Eve, and enjoy welcoming in a year full of new opportunities.

Dr. Rajesh Shetty is a Ponte Vedra resident and an ophthalmologist at Florida Eye Specialists. For more information on Dr. Shetty and his practice, visit FloridaEyeSpecialists.com.