Research Medical Center July 03, 2014

As our communities gear up for Fourth of July barbecue cook-outs and festivities, the nation’s emergency room doctors and hand and burn surgeons are prepared for an influx of patients with fireworks-related injuries.

“Our emergency room, Level 1 trauma center and the Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center are already treating patients with fireworks-related injuries,” emergency physician Jason Eppler, MD, said. “These injuries range from simple burns to loss of fingers, other extremities and even death.” 

As you prepare for Fourth of July festivities, it’s a great time to refresh fireworks safety tips to ensure you and your family experience independence from injury this holiday. 

A report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says an average of 200 people go to the emergency room in the U.S. each day with fireworks-related injuries in the 30 days surrounding the Fourth of July. 

By taking a few precautions, you can significantly decrease the risk of your family or friends becoming injured. 

Follow these safety tips:

  • Observe the law. Lighting fireworks is prohibited in many communities. Check with your local police or fire departments before lighting fireworks at home.
  • Buy only legal fireworks (legal fireworks will be labeled with the manufacturer's name and directions for use). NEVER make your own fireworks.
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions on packaging.
  • Young children should never play with fireworks. Children do not understand the danger involved and cannot react appropriately in case of emergency. 
  • Fill a bucket with water or sand, set up a water hose and always have a fire extinguisher on-hand.
  • Young children should wear ear muffs to prevent any damage to the ear drum.
  • Animals have sensitive ears too and can be extremely frightened or stressed by fireworks. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they'll run away or get injured.

Grossman Burn Center surgeon Megan Garcia, MD, suggests an individual who sustains a burn from fireworks should seek emergency medical care when the burn is larger than the size of the palm of a hand; when the burn is on the face, hands, feet or genitals; or when the burn is white, leathery or painless. Dr. Garcia also suggests these safety tips to prevent burns.

Safety tips while igniting fireworks:

  • NEVER light fireworks indoors or within closed-in areas. Fireworks are for outdoor use only.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from where fireworks are being lit.
  • Observers should be a safe distance from the fireworks and remain there until the fireworks are extinguished.
  • Fireworks may backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction, so encourage observers to be alert and watch.
  • Never allow children to light the fireworks. This should be done only by a responsible adult.
  • Tie long hair back, wear safety goggles and fitted clothing when lighting fireworks to avoid injury and fire.
  • Light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from houses, dry leaves and other flammable materials.
  • Make sure the fireworks are pointing to the sky and not to the side.
  • Avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket - the friction could cause them to ignite.
  • Light only one firework at a time.
  • Never lean over the top of fireworks to light them.
  • Never ignite fireworks in a glass or metal container.
  • Fireworks should never be thrown or held in a person's hands while being lit.

“Burns can even occur after fireworks sparks and flames are gone,” Dr. Garcia continues,  “People seem especially laid-back about sparklers but the tip of a sparkler can heat up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit posing serious burn risks while lit, but even after the spark goes out there are more cautions to remember.” 

After the Sparks and Flame:

  • Place the remains of faulty and used fireworks in a container with water (sparkler wires too).
  • Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned, appear to have gone out or are believed to be "duds."
  • Place all unused fireworks and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • If there are any fireworks that did not light properly, approach them with caution after waiting fifteen minutes or longer.

Enjoy the season while using common sense and being safe. Injury prevention is the only cure for trauma.

If you or someone you are with experiences a burn or other serious injury this holiday weekend, go to the nearest emergency room immediately. In the case of a life-threatening injury, call        9-1-1 immediately.

(Depending on emergency services demand at Research Medical Center, emergency physicians will be available for media interviews this holiday weekend.)   

References:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC), 2013. http://www.cpsc.gov