Last Deepavali, 36-year-old Ramchandra’s left eye was ruptured while he was watching his son burst an “atom bomb”. Doctors had to remove his left eye after he lost vision. Going near the firecracker to see what happened after it failed to go off proved costly for this Yelahanka resident.
Similarly, eight-year-old Akul Bhatnagar from R.T. Nagar and seven-year-old Sakshi from Sarjapura had suffered severe corneal damages while watching others burst crackers. These are only a few of the several eye injury cases reported last year, 40 per cent of whom were onlookers.
Along with the festive cheer that accompanies Deepavali every year, incidents of firecracker-related injuries take the sparkle out of the festival of lights. Despite the awareness drives and cracker-free campaigns, the situation has been the same year after year.
According to eye doctors, firework-related injuries range in severity from burned fingers and lacerations to serious disability and permanent loss of vision.
People should avoid bursting heavy and loud crackers, they said.
While small crackers cause common injuries such as mild burns in the skin, eyelashes or eyelids, heavy crackers such as rockets and “atom bombs” can cause serious damage to the cornea (front portion of the eye), bleeding inside the eye, tear and detachment of the retina and injury to the optic nerve leading to permanent loss of vision, the doctors said.
Advising precautions, ophthalmologists said that the onus was on people themselves to have a safe festival.
K. Bhujang Shetty of Narayana Nethralaya said that people should take precautions while buying, storing and lighting crackers.
With small children around, it is better not to buy crackers such as “bombs” and “rockets” that have a tendency to burst or move in haphazard directions, he said.
While storing crackers, it is necessary to keep them away from any source of fire or sparks, he said.
“People tend to put them in the puja room or kitchen. But this is dangerous as there are possibilities of the crackers catching fire and causing damage. They have to be stored properly,” he said.
Paediatric Ophthalmologist Arun Samprathi said that children should never be left unattended while bursting crackers.
“Most of the victims last year were boys aged between eight and 16. Lack of parental supervision and the practice of bursting crackers on roads without care are the main reasons for this,” he said.
Such injuries can be prevented and their impact reduced if proper precautions are taken, he advised.
Balakrishna Shetty, Chairman of Devi Eye Hospitals, advised people to wear tight-fitting cotton clothes and protective glasses to prevent sparks from hitting the eyes. People should always burst crackers in open fields and not on the roads or near their houses, he said.
In case of any injury to the eyes, they must be washed immediately with clean water and the person must be rushed to an eye surgeon.
According to Narpat Solanki, Chairman of Dr. Solanki’s Eye Hospital, most fireworks contain gunpowder, which causes these devices to explode.
“Sparklers are one of the major causes of fireworks injuries requiring hospitalisation. Sparklers are dangerous because they burn at a very high temperature. ‘Bottle rockets’ account for a majority of all fireworks injuries that lead to permanent eye damage,” he added.