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Leave July 4 Fireworks to the Pros

SATURDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- One way to have a safe July 4th holiday is to leave fireworks celebrations to the experts, a children's eye specialist advises.

"Fireworks exhibits are best left to professionals. Adults, and particularly children, should not play with these devices that can cause eye injuries, burns and bruises," Dr. Daniel Neely, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Riley Hosptial for Children, said in a university news release.

In Indiana, 116 fireworks injuries -- with nearly one in six involving the eyes -- were reported in 2009; half of those injured were children. Injuries can occur if fireworks are improperly used, explode earlier or later than expected, throw sparks or debris, or take an unintended flight path, the Indiana State Department of Health said.

In the United States, there were two fireworks-related deaths and nearly 9,000 injuries that required emergency room treatment in 2009, according to a recent report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Sparklers -- which can reach 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit -- were the leading cause of injuries among children under 5 years old.

"Children, especially those under age 5, don't have the physical coordination to handle fireworks and may become frightened. Other children may suffer injuries because of curiosity about how the device burns or is ignited," Neely said.

People who decide to use fireworks at home should heed the following safety tips from the Indiana University Department of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Prevent Blindness America and the CPSC:

  • Don't let children handle fireworks.
  • Read and follow all fireworks' warning labels and instructions.
  • Keep fireworks away from houses and flammable materials.
  • View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Only use sparklers and fireworks outside.
  • Have a bucket of water nearby.
  • Keep an eye on everyone when lighting fireworks.
  • If you get injured, seek medical help right away.
  • Don't carry fireworks in your pocket or light them in glass or metal containers.
  • Avoid buying fireworks in brown paper packaging, as they may have been meant for professional displays.
  • Don't try to relight or handle any fireworks that have malfunctioned.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about fireworks-related injuries.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCES: CPSC Fireworks Information Center; Indiana University School of Medicine, June 29, 2010, news release

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