It’s the 4th of July, and many proud Americans will be celebrating with fireworks. An unlucky (or careless?) few will wind up running afoul of their own pyrotechnics; just ask my old buddy “Three-Fingered Fred”.
Let’s face it, the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to be a spectator at your home town’s 4th of July event. Statistics show that from June 20th to July 20th of 2014, fireworks sent an average of 230 people to the hospital every day. 9 deaths were recorded, of which 2 were not even using the fireworks. Throughout 2014, there were a total of 10,400 fireworks-associated injuries treated in local emergency rooms. This does not take into account damage caused by outside fires or fires in structures caused by pyrotechnics, totaling millions of dollars’ worth of damage.
Most (74%) fireworks-related injuries involve the fingers, hands, face (including the eyes), and head. Firecrackers were the most likely to be involved in mishaps. The majority of injuries were burns of varying degrees.
Many fireworks injuries (57%) are seen in children or teens; unsupervised use of fireworks by children is a very bad idea. I was on the beach watching fireworks one July fourth, and a bottle rocket lit by an 8 year-old wound up missing my head by just a few inches.
FIREWORKS SAFETY TIPS
If you must have fireworks for personal use, consider these safety tips:
- Only buy legal fireworks for personal use. Avoid fireworks wrapped in brown paper; these are usually meant for professional displays and are dangerous to the novice.
- Never allow children to play with or light fireworks, even sparklers. Sparklers reach a temperature of up to 2000 degrees, as hot as a blow torch!
- Never place your body directly over a firework when lighting it.
- Never re-light or pick up fireworks that are “duds” or have not ignited fully.
- Never point fireworks at another person (no Roman Candle duels!).
- Always have a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of fire or burns.
- Don’t put fireworks in metal cans or glass jars as a “base”; if they explode, there will be shrapnel!
- Light fireworks one at a time.
- Back off quickly after lighting a firework.
- Douse spent fireworks with water.
If you or a member of your family is injured, go directly to the emergency room after running cool water on the injury. Following these safety tips will keep your family safe during Independence day.
Joe Alton, MD