Don't let firework-related injuries spoil the fun this Fourth

Contributing writerJune 29, 2013 

The Fourth of July fireworks show over downtown Lexington, Ky, on Monday July 4, 2011.

HANNAH POTES | STAFF — Lexington Herald-Leader

Fireworks will light up the skies all over Kentucky in celebration of Independence Day. While this beloved American pastime can be fun, families across the state should take precautions to keep the fun from turning sour with an injury.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in the month surrounding the Fourth of July, emergency room visits spike with firework-related injuries. Nearly 90 percent of those visits are caused by legal, consumer-grade fireworks.

In 2011, reports by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the NFPA found that firework-related injuries affect people of all ages, but most commonly children ages 5-14. Injuries are most often seen on the hands, eyes, head, face and ears, and more than half the injuries were burns.

All types of fireworks can cause injury. Even sparklers, which parents may consider safer for children, account for more than 17 percent of firework-related emergency room visits. A sparkler can reach temperatures of over 1,000 degrees, and can easily cause third-degree burns, among other injures.

Damage to personal property is also a concern. Two out of five fires reported on Independence Day are started by fireworks. In 2010 alone, these fires resulted in more than $36 million in property damage nationwide.

The NFPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend these tips when using fireworks:

■ Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks

■ Always have an adult supervise firework activities

■ Never try to relight or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully

■ Never point or throw fireworks at another person

■ Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap

■ Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly

■ Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them

■ After fireworks finish burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water before discarding it, to prevent a trash fire.

Be sure to keep these guidelines in mind, and share the information with those who may be inadvertently putting themselves, and their loved ones, in danger.

Celebrating our nation's independence should be a fun and safe experience for the whole family. The best way to ensure the safety of your family is to leave the fireworks to professionals and watch a community fireworks display from a safe distance.

In the event of firework-related injury, seek medical attention immediately or call 9-1-1.

Dr. Ketan Merchant is an emergency department physician at Saint Joseph East, part of KentuckyOne Health

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