Saint Louis University

Each year in July, doctors see children and adults in the emergency room with devastating eye injuries from fireworks fun gone wrong, a pattern that is especially tragic because these injuries are entirely avoidable. And, sadly, almost every year, a child in the St. Louis area will become blind in one eye because of a fireworks accident.

Oscar Cruz, M.D.

"Bottle rockets are the worst. I've seen them cause irreparable damage," said Oscar A. Cruz, M.D., chair of ophthalmology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. "And sparklers can be dangerous for little kids. They can reach temperatures well over 1000 degrees.

"I tell my own kids, 'Don't fool with fireworks.'"

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are around 2,000 fireworks-related eye injuries each year. One-third of these injuries result in permanent eye damage. Three-fourths of all fireworks-related eye injuries happen to boys between the ages of 13 and 15, and, for children under age 5, sparklers account for three-quarters of all fireworks injuries.

"Teenage boys are hard-wired to love fireworks. They feel invincible, and it can be a real challenge to keep them away from the fireworks stand," said Cruz. "It's important to have a very honest talk about the dangers of fireworks. I remind teenagers that vision loss can affect their ability to drive and play sports."

Cruz, who is also a SLUCare pediatric eye doctor, offers the following advice to avoid injury this Fourth:

  • Leave lighting fireworks to trained professionals.
  • Never allow children and adolescents to play with fireworks; be sure to explain the dangers and potential consequences.
  • Watch fireworks displays from a safe distance.
  • Stay away from unexploded fireworks.
  • If an injury does occur, flush the eye with water and go to the emergency room.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.