The Fourth of July is often celebrated with the crackling and booming of firework displays. Unfortunately, amateur fireworks can pose dangers for both adults and children alike. Burns to the skin or injuries to the hands, face, ears and eyes are common preventable injuries.
If you’re going to set off fireworks, knowing how to avoid injury and what to do in case of harm is vital as you prepare to celebrate with friends and family.
First, always ensure the fireworks you’re using are legal in your community. Next, never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Even fireworks that parents may view as harmless still pose a threat. Sparklers can reach temperatures of over 2,000 degrees, which is hot enough to melt some metals and able to cause serious burns and injuries.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that sparklers alone account for more than 30 percent of firework-related emergency room visits. Even picking up a used, but still hot, sparkler frequently causes burns.
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Other fireworks may also pose serious risks, including firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and reloadable shells. When lighting a firework, never put your head over it. Many people sustain injuries this way, trying to get a closer look or examining why a firework didn’t go off. Similarly, never point a firework at someone, even in jest. The joke too often goes awry.
Avoid putting fireworks in any sort of metal or glass container that could cause shrapnel and damage if the firework unexpectedly went off. Always wear safety goggles to protect the eyes, which are a common victim of firework mishaps.
After fireworks have finished burning, douse them in a bucket of water, or with a hose, before putting them in the trash. Do not attempt to relight a defective firework or to make homemade fireworks.
If you are injured by a firework, it’s important to know what to do to minimize the seriousness of the injury. Immediately remove or cut off any items that could cause further burns, including smoldering clothes. If minor burns have been sustained, place the affected area under cool, running water for 15 to 20 minutes. Never use ice water or ice on a burn, as it can cause further damage.
If the skin starts to blister, this could be a sign of a second-degree burn, which should be addressed immediately at the nearest emergency department. Leave the blister intact and do not apply any topical medications, or other home therapies, until the burn has been evaluated by a trained medical professional.
While it may be a tradition to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks, take precautions to avoid a fireworks-related injury. The easiest way to stay safe is to leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals and attend a professional fireworks show in your community. There, you can have greater peace of mind that you and your family will not have to spend Independence Day in the emergency room.
Dr. Benjamin Rambicure is with Family Medicine, KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates.