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Bottle Rockets Hurt Kids

Study Shows Risks to Eyes of Youngsters Who Use Fireworks
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

boy and girl carrying fireworks

Jan. 10, 2010 -- Medical groups such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology have been warning for years about the dangers posed to children by fireworks, and now a new study warns that bottle rockets may be particularly dangerous.

It says bottle rockets can lead to permanent loss of vision, or at least significant and painful damage to young eyes.

The study says 1,400 of 9,200 fireworks-related admissions to emergency departments annually involve the eyes, and that a disproportionate number of the injuries are caused by bottle rockets.

Accidents Involving 10 Patients Studied

Mehnaz Kahn, MS, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University Medical Center studied injuries to 11 eyes in 10 patients, eight boys and two girls, age 18 or under who were seen in the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital emergency room for eye injuries caused by bottle rockets between 2006 and 2009.

Eight of the 10 patients were hurt within a month of the Fourth of July. Eight of the patients were launching bottle rockets, and two were bystanders. None was wearing protective eye gear at the time of the accidents.

Of the injuries studied, seven caused defects in the outer surface of the cornea, six involved bleeding in front of the eye, two involved traumatic inflammation of the iris, and four caused a tear of the iris. Other injuries included bleeding into the inner eye’s vitreous fluid and cataracts.

The researchers say eight of the eyes required initial treatments such as surgical removal of the lens of the eye, or removal of damaged corneal tissue.

In three patients, additional procedures were required, including muscle surgery and placement of a new lens in one eye.

The most recent visual acuity was 20/30 or better in four eyes at follow-up, and 20/200 or worse in six eyes.

Bottle Rockets Can Cause Permanent Vision Loss

The researchers say permanent vision loss or damage was due mostly to traumatic maculopathy, or damage to the part of the retina that is responsible for central vision.

The authors say the study shows that bottle rockets “can cause significant” damage to the eyes of children and adolescents, cause youngsters avoidable surgery, and the loss of school or work days.

“If children, adolescents and parents choose to launch bottle rockets, it is important for parents not only to supervise children and adolescents in the vicinity of bottle rockets, but also to ensure that protective eyewear is used,” the authors write.

The researchers sifted through 2,385 consultation medical records to find 10 patients with a history of bottle rocket injury.

They report that boys are more likely than girls to be hit in the eyes with bottle rockets and note that previous research has found that in more than half of such accidents, adults are not around to supervise.

Tips for Avoiding Fireworks Injuries to Children

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips for avoiding fireworks-related injuries:

  • Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
  • Make sure fireworks are viewed from at least 500 feet away.
  • Keep your eye on safety barriers set up by pyrotechnicians, and keep children away.
  • Let trained professionals light fireworks.
  • Do not touch unexploded firework remains.
  • Seek immediate medical help for any eye injury caused by fireworks.

The study is published online in advance of appearing in the May print issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

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