“They are not toys”: Dartmouth Health Children’s ophthalmologists urge safety when near fireworks, sparklers this July 4th

Image of fireworks in a black night sky overlaid with a yellow sign that reads "FIREWORKS SAFETY"

It’s not worth the risk to you or your child’s eye health to skip the necessary precautions when near sparklers, firecrackers and fireworks, so we encourage parents to talk to their kids about fireworks safety before the holiday.

Erin M. Salcone, MD, and Janine R. Eagle, MD

Many families across the country will celebrate Independence Day later this week by enjoying firework displays. In New Hampshire, the sale and possession of fireworks by individuals is legal (with restrictions varying by municipality). While designed for entertainment, fireworks are still explosives and extremely dangerous if not handled properly. Emergency departments nationwide see a spike in injuries related to fireworks and sparklers each year around the Fourth of July, especially to the eyes—some of which are so serious that they can cause permanent blindness, or loss of the eye.

“We see many tragic injuries from fireworks at this time each year, all of which could have been prevented,” said Erin M. Salcone, MD, and Janine R. Eagle, MD, pediatric ophthalmologists with Dartmouth Health Children’s. “Fireworks and sparklers are fun to watch, but they are not toys. Children should never play with fireworks of any kind, even sparklers. Anyone can be seriously hurt by using them incorrectly and without the correct protective gear. It’s not worth the risk to you or your child’s eye health to skip the necessary precautions when near sparklers, firecrackers and fireworks, so we encourage parents to talk to their kids about fireworks safety before the holiday.”

Salcone and Eagle recommend the following tips for anyone watching or setting off fireworks this holiday week to ensure a fun and safe experience for all:

  • Wear protective eye gear: A single rogue spark can have devastating impacts to the eyes. Typical eyeglasses or sunglasses are insufficient protection. Refer to the American National Safety Institute’s guidelines for selecting appropriate protective eyewear, such as safety goggles that protect the eyes from sparks and debris: https://bit.ly/45M08tx
  • Keep them away from kids: No child should set off fireworks under any circumstances, regardless of age: according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), teenagers 15 to 19 years old were most likely to require emergency treatment for fireworks injuries. Young children should not hold or be near sparklers. Adult supervision is required any time older children are near fireworks or sparklers.
  • The person lighting the match isn’t the only one at risk: A National Institutes of Health study found that 65 percent of those injured by fireworks were bystanders. Observers should remain a safe distance away, and consider wearing protective eyewear. Unexploded fireworks are also highly dangerous and should not be touched.
  • Know the laws: Even in states like New Hampshire where fireworks are legal at the state level, individual cities and towns have differing regulations on who can set off fireworks and where. Fireworks are highly dangerous not just to people, but wildlife too, and they can cause destructive brushfires.
  • What to do if someone is hurt by fireworks: According to the AAO, fireworks-related eye injuries can combine blunt force trauma, heat burns and chemical exposure. An eye injury from fireworks is a medical emergency. Follow these guidelines in case of an injury:
    • Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.
    • Do not rub the eyes.
    • Do not rinse the eyes.
    • Do not apply pressure.
    • Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
    • Do not apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen, unless directed by a healthcare provider.

About Dartmouth Health

Dartmouth Health, New Hampshire's only academic health system and the state's largest private employer, serves patients across northern New England. Dartmouth Health provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, as well as across its wide network of hospitals, clinics and care facilities. DHMC is consistently named the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in numerous clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth Health includes Dartmouth Cancer Center, one of only 56 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, and the only such center in northern New England; Dartmouth Health Children’s, which includes Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the state’s only children’s hospital, and multiple clinic locations around the region; member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene and New London, NH, and Bennington and Windsor, VT; Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and more than 24 clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. Through its historical partnership with Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth Health trains nearly 400 medical residents and fellows annually, and performs cutting-edge research and clinical trials recognized across the globe with Geisel and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT. Dartmouth Health and its more than 13,000 employees are deeply committed to serving the healthcare needs of everyone in our communities, and to providing each of our patients with exceptional, personal care.

About Dartmouth Health Children's

Dartmouth Health Children's is the only comprehensive pediatric healthcare system in the region. Fully integrated in Dartmouth Health and anchored for more than 30 years by Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (CHaD)—in Lebanon, NH—Dartmouth Health Children's promotes health, advances knowledge, and delivers the best patient and family-centered care for infants, children, and adolescents across New Hampshire and Vermont. Dartmouth Health Children's conducts groundbreaking research and educates the next generations of health professionals as the primary pediatric partner of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Highly skilled and collaborative child health professionals provide care in multiple settings across the region. Outpatient specialty visits and same-day surgery services are available at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (CHaD) and Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinics Manchester. Primary care appointments in general pediatrics are available at Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinics in Bedford, Concord, Lebanon, Manchester and Nashua, NH and Bennington, VT; as well as at Dartmouth Health members: Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, Cheshire Medical Center, New London Hospital and Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center.