Dear Abby:

With Independence Day approaching, I'm asking for your help in reminding your millions of readers about the danger of fireworks, especially to the eyes.

Each year during Fourth of July celebrations, thousands of adults and children are seriously injured as a result of fireworks and pyrotechnic devices. Many of the injuries affect eyesight, permanently damaging -- and in some cases blinding -- the victims. In response, the American Optometric Association (AOA) urges people to refrain from using fireworks and to instead enjoy professional displays.

About two-thirds of fireworks-related injuries are burns. Most of the burns involve the hands, eyes, head and face. Almost half of the victims are under 15 years of age, and 75 percent of them are male. The most frequent cause of fireworks injuries requiring trips to the emergency room is sparklers. (Did you know that sparklers can heat up to 1,800 degrees, enough to melt gold?) A sparkler can also literally poke someone's eye out.

This may come as a surprise, but bystanders are also not safe from injury. Data from the U.S. Eye Injury Registry reveals that half of all fireworks injuries occur to bystanders.

So, on this Fourth of July, members of the AOA urge your readers to protect their eyes by avoiding fireworks and enjoying professional displays from a safe distance.

Dr. Wesley Pittman

President

American Optometric Association (AOA)

Thank you for the timely reminder. Although many people, young and old, regard fireworks as harmless fun, the facts show otherwise.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, during 2002, an estimated 8,800 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks. An estimated 20 percent to 25 percent of fireworks injuries are to the eyes -- mostly contusions and lacerations -- and most of those are caused by firecrackers, rockets and sparklers.

So, a word to the wise: Have a "blast" on the Fourth of July -- but do it in a way that will protect yourselves and your families.

Dear Abby:

I'm being married in three months, and through pure coincidence it turns out that one of my cousins is being married the same day. We're not close, as she was very competitive with me while we were growing up.

Her wedding will take place in the morning. I'm having an afternoon wedding with an evening reception. I assumed she wouldn't be able to make it to my reception because she'd be exhausted and want to spend time with her new husband.

Well, I just received an e-mail from her saying she wants to attend. Ordinarily, that would thrill me. However, the catch is, she says there won't be enough time to change, so she wants to wear her bridal gown to my reception.

I think this is terribly rude. I mean, how long does it take to change? Am I being petty, and if not, what can I say to her?

Frustrated Bride in Texas

Although the rules regarding proper attire for wedding guests have become more flexible in recent years, it is still unacceptable for a guest to wear a bridal gown to someone else's reception. Tell your cousin that you will "understand" if she's a few minutes late to your reception, so she can change, and that she and her new husband should quietly seat themselves when they arrive.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate