Beware the rockets’ red glare: Leave fireworks to the experts

The UAB Callahan Eye Hospital says leave the fireworks alone this summer, but here are some safety tips if you just can’t resist.

The best way to enjoy fireworks this Fourth of July is to leave them to the professionals, says Doug Witherspoon, M.D., director of the Ocular Trauma Center at University of Alabama at Birmingham Callahan Eye Hospital.

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It’s best to avoid using fireworks at home,” Witherspoon says. “They are dangerous and unpredictable. You are far better off attending a professional fireworks show than attempting to use them at home.”

According to the Birmingham-based United States Eye Injury Registry, there are an estimated 12,000 fireworks-related injuries treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments annually. As many as 400 Americans suffer permanent vision loss in one or both eyes as a result of injuries caused by fireworks each year. Bottle rockets are the worst offenders, according to Witherspoon.

If you must use fireworks yourself, Witherspoon says follow these safety procedures to avoid injury, burns or blindness.

  • Always have an adult present.
  • Never use bottle rockets
  • Never allow young children to play with fireworks, even sparklers. Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt gold.
  • Never try to re-light fireworks that did not explode or ignite the first time.
  • Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher present in case of fire.
  • Light fireworks on a clean, flat surface away from the house or flammable materials.
  • Read and follow all manufacturer's warnings and instructions.
  • If there are no instructions or product labels, the item may have been made illegally and could be unsafe; illegal fireworks, which are made without the quality-control standards of legal products, are extremely unpredictable.
  • In the event of eye injury, do not touch, rub or press on the injured eye; seek immediate care from an ophthalmologist or hospital emergency room.
  • Only light one item at a time.
  • Never throw fireworks at another person.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
  • Never experiment, modify or attempt to make your own fireworks.
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