Eye Health

Updated 16 November 2015

Firecrackers and eye injuries go hand-in-hand during Deepavali

Every year during the religious festival of Deepavali (Diwali), which is known as the festival of lights, dozens of people are admitted to hospitals in India with eye injuries caused by firecrackers.

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Firecrackers are synonymous with the Hindu festival of Deepavali, but, increasingly, so are eye injuries.

The Times of India reported that this year's Deepavali festival saw 88 people rushed to hospitals in the Indian city of Bangalore with eye injuries. Heavy rains and a public firecracker safety awareness campaign have, however, have brought down the number of cases.

Most of the injuries reported were internal haemorrhage of the eyes and corneal burns. Dr Arun Samprathi, an opthamologist at the Samprathi Eye Hospital and Squint Centre, told the newspaper that eye injuries by fireworks are caused in three ways.

One is by heat or fire, a second is by the force with which a foreign object hits the eye and the last is due to the chemical nature of the cracker. In most cases the injury is caused by a combination of these three factors and the damage can be immense, including loss of eyesight.

Research has shown that flying debris from firework explosions may be a bigger factor in eye injuries than the force of the blasts themselves.

Read: Why paintball eye injuries are so severe

The Indian Journal of Opthalmology published a case series of firecracker eye injuries during Deepavali festival in 2010, highlighting the dangers of careless use of fireworks, especially in terms of eye injuries.

The injuries described in the series were classified according to Birmingham eye trauma terminology system (BETTS) that describes any type of mechanical globe trauma.

The types of eye injuries include corneal and scleral tears, traumatic iridodialysis with hyphema, intraocular foreign body (IOFB) injury, and globe rupture.


The most common cause of eye injuries from firecrackers are caused by bombs and sparklers, though bottle rockets and Roman candles also cause injuries. In India a type of firecracker known as "bhoo chakra" - that looks like a rotating fireball - is commonly used, as are 'firepots' that look like fountains.

Both bystanders and those involved in lighting the firecrackers are injured and most injuries are caused as a result of negligence by those igniting the firecrackers.

Accidents also happened when the devices malfunction and people tried to re-ignite them.

Other reasons for accidents include a lack of safety measures, absence of parental supervision, and failure to maintain a safe distance from firecrackers when they were aignited. Firecrackers would also be lighted in the streets, as opposed to in safe and open public areas, putting bystanders at risk.

Solutions would be to wear protective eye wear, restrict fireworks to public open spaces such as parks or playgrounds,  regulating the quality of firecrackers and promoting the safe use in schools and via the media.

In India many hospitals prepare for the influx of people with eye injuries during religious celebrations to quickly treat the affected. If your eyes are injured by a firecracker, cover the injured eye with cotton and tape, and rush to an eye-specialist immediately for an evaluation of the extent of the damage. Eye-sight can be lost in minutes and might be saved if it is immediately treated.

Sources: Alphonse, V. Journal of the American Medical Association, July 3, 201; Indian Journal of Opthalmology

Read more:

5 fireworks disasters
10 Safety tips for Guy Fawkes
Fireworks rules and regulations in South Africa

 

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Optometrist

Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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