A surgeon at Britain’s biggest eye hospital has said he is worried about a potential surge in people suffering serious eye injuries over Guy Fawkes weekend due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Badrul Hussain, a consultant of more than 10 years at Moorfields Eye Hospital in north London, said he expects more people to attempt DIY firework displays this year as local councils cancel organised events due to funding.
During an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Hussain said Bonfire Night injuries tend to range from scratches on the eye caused by sparkler debris to eyeballs being split open in scenes “much like a horror film”.
He added that most firework-related injuries affect the hands and face, including eyes, due to people handling and looking closely at fireworks which have failed to go off in the dark and experiencing thermal blasts.
Mr Hussain said: “If you think about what happens to an egg white when you put heat on it, it goes white and cloudy rather than clear.
“The clear window at the front of an eye, if that’s subjected to heat or significant chemical injury, instead of being clear it can become cloudy and potentially cause permanent visual damage.
“The other end of the spectrum are things that are much like from a horror film, where the blast from a firework has effectively split the eye open.”
Mr Hussain said fireworks and sparklers can also lead to surface scratches on the eyeball caused by falling embers.
The surgeon said Moorfields Eye A&E department experiences a swell of admissions during autumnal celebrations including the five-day festival of Diwali, Guy Fawkes weekend and the Chinese Moon Festival.
“It’s always three or four weeks in autumn rather than one particular night when the number of injuries with fireworks seems to go up,” he said.
Mr Hussain said that over this period, Moorfields usually treats hundreds of people with “significant injuries” to their eyes caused by fireworks, and he expects the numbers to be greater this year due to the cost of living crisis.
“One of the concerns I have this year is because of costs of things, a lot of local authorities may be cancelling their organised firework displays, and more people might be organising their own displays at home,” he said.
Many councils across the nation have cancelled their displays this year due to budget constraints, including dozens in London.
Mr Hussain said the safest way to enjoy Bonfire Night is by going to an organised event, but for people planning their own displays, his biggest piece of advice was not to return to a lit firework if it fails to go off.
He also recommended only purchasing fireworks with the CE safety mark, keeping them in a closed box, and reading the Firework Code before using them.
Mr Hussain said: “I know there may be fewer around this year, but I recommend going to a proper firework display where there is proper health and safety and people are kept at a certain distance from fireworks and any falling embers.
“Fireworks are not toys, and they can have life-changing injuries for people.”