There is no better way to ring in the new year than with a display of fireworks. Whether you choose to watch fireworks or light them, it is important to know that even the most seemingly harmless fireworks, like sparklers, can be dangerous. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine says firework injuries are increasing every year, and she offers tips on how to protect your eyes from injury.

“Only 10 percent of Americans wear eye safety protection while using fireworks,” said Dr. Sumitra Khandelwal, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Baylor. “Bystanders make up for nearly half of the eye injuries from fireworks, so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings when you are in a setting where fireworks are involved.”

Injuries from fireworks may require emergency surgery, and one-third of eye injuries result in permanent vision loss. Some fireworks injuries to the eye result in such bad damage that the eye has to be removed. In addition to vision loss, firework work injuries can result in burns to the eyes and eyelids, foreign bodies in the eye and scratches to the eye that can lead to scarring.

Protective eyewear, such as safety glasses, is essential, especially when handling sparkler fireworks. Other safety precautions include keeping a barrier between yourself and the fireworks. If you experience an eye injury, Khandelwal suggests doing the following:

  • Do not touch, rub or rinse the eyes
  • Do not apply pressure to the eyes
  • Do not remove any objects from the eye
  • Do not take any blood thinning medicine such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Seek immediate medical attention if there is any firework injury suspected

People suffer from firework injuries every year, and unfortunately children are frequent victims. When celebrating milestones like New Year’s, it is best to leave firework handling to the professionals, unless using the proper precautions.

“As long as one wears protective eyewear, fireworks like sparklers can be relatively safe at home. One can even make the eyewear fun by adding new year stickers or other decorations,” Khandelwal said.