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Fireworks safety 101

It’s a red, white, and blue themed weekend and I’m sure many of you are gearing up for a festive Fourth of July! Although fireworks may be included in your family’s celebratory plans, it’s important to remember fireworks are extremely dangerous. In 2014, an estimated 10,500 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency centers, with children under 15 years of age accounting for 35 percent of the estimated injuries. An unexpected trip to the emergency center can be prevented by remembering these important safety tips:

  • Kids should never ignite or play with fireworks! Typically, the types of fireworks that cause the most injuries are firecrackers, sparklers and bottle rockets.
  • Many mistakenly consider sparklers to be safe, but they can burn at extremely high temperatures (1,800°F to 3,000°F)! The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) stats from the Fourth of July festivities in 2014 indicated sparklers were involved in a majority of fireworks-related injuries sustained by children under 5 years of age.
  • Ensure fireworks are legal in your area prior to buying or using them…and, never use illegal, unlabeled or homemade fireworks!
  • If using fireworks at your home, be sure to follow the instructions on them. Light fireworks one at a time and at arm’s length, then move back quickly. Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Light/ignite fireworks in a clear, flat area away from houses, spectators, leaves and flammable materials. The person igniting the fireworks should wear non-flammable clothing, closed-toe shoes and safety glasses.
  • Families should always be prepared for an emergency. Before lighting fireworks, always ensure a bucket of water or a hose is nearby - not only will water cool off spent sparklers and extinguish fireworks, but also douse any potential fires. Additionally, when using fireworks, parents should always have a cell phone and first aid kit nearby.

If your child is injured by fireworks, stay calm and quickly assess his/her injury. Typically, the most common fireworks-related injuries include burns, contusions, lacerations and foreign objects in the eyes.

  • Burns are typically the most common fireworks-related injury to all parts of the body. There are three common types of burns:
    • Superficial burns (looks dry and red like a “sunburn”) can be treated at home with cool water, gentle cleansing and acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen for pain.
    • Partial thickness burns (appears red and blistered) are very painful and should be evaluated by a medical professional. Home remedies, such as butter and mayonnaise, should not be used.
    • Full thickness burns (looks white, waxy or charred) may be painless and need to be evaluated in an emergency or burn center immediately. 
  • For lacerations, control the bleeding with direct, firm pressure for at least 20 minutes and then gently cleanse the wound with soap and running water. If the cut is very deep or jagged, immediately take your child to an urgent care or emergency center for stitches.
  • For eye injuries, don’t allow your child to rub his/her eye; keep it covered with a half styrofoam cup and go to the emergency center.

Please keep your children safe this Fourth of July! Although fireworks and sparklers typically go hand-in-hand with Independence Day, please remember fireworks are extremely dangerous and even life-threatening. Rather than using fireworks at home, parents should take advantage of local, professionally-organized fireworks shows in their area and encourage their children to use alternative, yet fun, celebratory toys, such as light-up noisemakers, glow sticks and confetti!

Dr. Katherine Leaming-Van Zandt, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Specialist