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Safeguard the sparkle in your kids’ eyes

4 November 2004

Safeguard the sparkle in your kids’ eyes

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) reminds Kiwi parents that, while traditional Guy Fawkes sparklers and other fireworks are fun to use and pretty to look at, they can be especially dangerous to children.

“Safeguard the sparkle in your kids’ eyes,” says Chris Inglis, RNZFB Blindness Awareness and Prevention Divisional Manager.

"Sparklers are essentially a cocktail of chemicals.

"They have in them aluminium, iron, steel, zinc, magnesium and other chemicals, which get mixed together with water and combustible ingredients to form a slurry that can be coated on a wire to dry. When lit, the metal flakes heat up to temperatures as high as 700 degrees Celsius, spraying sparks of molten metal as they burn."

Ms Inglis says that apart from the obvious heat involved in flying sparks, the iron in sparklers is of particular concern, as particles entering the eye can rust and cause irreversible damage if not removed by an eye professional immediately.

"It’s just not worth losing your sight because of fireworks on one night of the year," she says.

It is safer to attend only authorized public fireworks displays conducted by licensed operators, but even professional displays can be dangerous. If you do decide to light fireworks at home make sure you follow the safety precautions promoted by the Fire service including protecting your eyes by wearing safety glasses.

However, even the best safety measures cannot always ensure that your children’s eyes are protected from harm. These five steps can help save your child's sight if an accident does happen.

Do not delay medical attention even for seemingly mild injuries. "Mildly" damaged areas can worsen and end in serious vision loss, even blindness. Get medical treatment as soon as you can. Do not rub the eye. If any eye tissue is torn, rubbing might push out the eye's contents and cause more damage. Trying to rub the eye is an automatic response to pain, but pressure will only do more harm. Do not attempt to rinse out the eye. This can be even more damaging than rubbing. Shield the eye from pressure. Protecting the eye from further contact with any item, including the child's hand, is the goal. Do not apply ointment or any medication. It is probably not sterile. Also, ointments make the eye area slippery. This could slow the doctor's examination at a time when every second counts.

Be wise and take extra care when lighting a firework. Vision lost as a result of eye injury is most often impossible to restore.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind is New Zealand’s primary service provider for blind, vision-impaired and deafblind people. Every year nearly 1500 New Zealanders either go blind or experience serious sight loss.

ENDS

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