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Be a bright spark and protect your eyes!

Media Release
31 October 2003
For immediate release

Be a bright spark and protect your eyes!

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) is putting out a word of caution as New Zealand gets ready to celebrate Guy Fawkes.

“We want people to know how important it is to look after their eyes, especially if they are going to be around fireworks.” says Chris Inglis, Divisional Manager, Blindness Awareness and Prevention.

Ms Inglis also has a special message this year - wear protective safety glasses!

“It’s something that not everyone thinks about. People know how to protect themselves against skin burns but they don’t always remember to protect their eyes as well,” she says.

“When you are leaning over to light a firework or sparkler, your eyes are vulnerable. That’s why protective eye gear is essential to guard against stray particles or sparks that can cause serious damage to both or one of your eyes.”

“Follow the suggestions that are provided by the Fire Service and be careful at all times, especially when there are children involved”, is Ms Inglis’s advice.

The pretty, bright colours of sparklers draw children because they are lots of fun to play with. But be warned - sparklers can emit bits of molten metal that burn at temperatures as high as 700 degrees Celsius.

A burn of this magnitude in the eye will cause very serious damage, and possible permanent vision loss. Another concern is that these stray particles might find their way into the eye, where they will rust.

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The RNZFB believes that the use of protective eye gear will go a long way in helping to avoid eye accidents, the majority of which are preventable.

The eye damage that is caused by fireworks accidents is serious, and can be vision-threatening if not attended to by an eye physician immediately.

“We really want to get the message out there, that you won’t injure your eyes if you take the necessary precautions“, says Ms Inglis.

Apart from wearing protective eye gear, here are some tips to ensue that this year’s Guy Fawkes is a safe one.

Tips for Guy Fawkes at home:

- Stand your fireworks in dirt or sand, or on a firm flat surface
- Have only one person in the area where the fireworks are being lit
- Light one firework at a time
- Light your fireworks at arms length. Keep your body back, and reach out to light a fuse. Never light fireworks in your hand
- Keep clear of fireworks that have been lit but have not gone off. Don’t try to re-light a dud firework
- Keep family and friends at least 15 metres away from where the fireworks are being lit at all times
- Never point or throw fireworks at people

However, even the best safety measures cannot always ensure that your eyes are protected from harm. Here’s what to do to minimize the damage caused by an eye accident.

- 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. Tape or secure the bottom of a foam cup, milk carton or similar shield against the bones surrounding the eye: brow, cheek and bridge of the nose
- Do not give aspirin or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain. They thin the blood and might increase bleeding
- 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

For further information on how to be fire safe this Guy Fawkes, go online. Visit the New Zealand Fire Service fireworks page at http://www.fire.org.nz/home_kids/tips/fireworks.htm or visit www.bigboom.co.nz to take a quiz on firework safety.

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