The 4th of July is supposed to be a celebration, but instead thousands of people are finding themselves nursing injuries.
It may seem harmless to buy a few sparklers, some roman candles and a rocket or two to celebrate the holiday, but it's important to handle fireworks safely.
If you're planning to skip the public fireworks shows and do your own, make sure that having fireworks in your area is legal. Don't break the law for a few fireworks.
In fact, your community's professional fireworks show is probably your safest bet anyway, says the National Council of Fireworks.
Whether you do it yourself or attend a public show, here are a few ways to make sure your fireworks display on the 4th of July is injury-free.
Fireworks cause burns and blazes
Fireworks get incredibly hot, reaching temperatures of over 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. By the way, glass melts at 900 degrees and wood burns at 575 degrees Fahrenheit, just to give you an idea of how hot that really is, according to the National Firework Protection Association.
Light all fireworks at arm's length, and never hover over them. You want to wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin, and goggles to protect your eyes, says the Fireworks Alliance. Also, leave the sandals and flip-flops at home. You'll need to shoes that cover your feet to prevent burns or just in case you have to run to safety.
Never touch or try to reignite a firework that didn't fully ignite. Sparks might fly when you touch dud fireworks. Wait about 20 minutes and then soak them in water, says the Fireworks Alliance.
The spark in your eyes
Fireworks can also cause severe eye injuries. About 1,400 people suffer from burns, abrasions and cuts to their eyes each year when fireworks debris punctures the eye, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
In fact, some of the most severe injuries happen to your eyes. If you decide to attend a fireworks show, stay behind the area's barriers, which should be set at least 500 feet away, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
If you or a child gets an eye injury from fireworks, get to the doctor immediately.
- Rub your eyes
- Rinse your eyes
- Add pressure
- Remove an object if it's stuck in your eye
- Apply ointment
- Take aspirin or ibuprofen – these medications are blood thinners and could cause bleeding
Keeping kids safe
About 8,700 people go to the emergency room each year after being injured with fireworks, and fifty-seven percent of firework-related injuries are burns.
Many of the people injured by fireworks are kids. Children 5 years old and younger account for about 500 injuries and children aged 5-14 account for about 1,500, says a 2013 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Even though they light up and make noise, fireworks are not toys and can seriously hurt your children and you.
Younger children shouldn't play with fireworks. And parents or another responsible adult need to supervise teenagers when they are handling fireworks, says the National Council of Fireworks.
Teach children that throwing, pointing or waving sparklers at other people is out of the question. Someone could easily get burned this way, the Council says.
Fireworks are fire-starters
More fires happen on Independence Day than any other day out of the year. In 2011, there were 17,800 fires started from fireworks alone, says the National Fire Protection Association.
The best way to prevent a building fire is to not light fireworks close to a building. That way sparks can't fly onto flammable material and ignite. When you are done with fireworks, thoroughly extinguish them so they won't catch fire again. Place them with a bucket of water or douse them with water using a water hose, says the Fireworks Alliance.
July 4th is a time to enjoy yourself, not be sitting in the doctor's office with an injury. Fun is important but safety comes first.
For more pediatric health and safety advice, visit the oprmc website.