Summer Safety: Fireworks Spark Injuries

June 29, 2016 Brenda Manfredi, MD

fireworks-safetyIt’s that time of year! The days are just a little bit longer, the weather warms up just enough, cookouts become a weekly ritual, and soon we will all delight in the ohhs and ahhs that accompany the annual Fourth of July fireworks displays. Sadly, though, fireworks are a source of a lot of injuries. Last year, St. Joseph Health’s facilities treated many holiday-related injuries on and around Independence Day that involved the use of fireworks—burns from lighting or touching fireworks, falls sustained while running with fireworks, and being struck by objects such as a pinwheel that comes apart.

“There is no such thing as ‘safe and sane’ fireworks,” says Brenda Manfredi, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at St. Joseph Health Medical Group. “That’s what it may say on the box, but all that means is that they don’t explode or produce aerial effects. Fireworks sold under the ‘safe and sane’ banner, like sparklers, fountains, and snakes are still perfectly capable of inflicting burns.”

Take sparklers, for example. Often considered one of the safest fireworks, sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees. They join firecrackers and rockets (which are illegal throughout California) in causing the bulk of emergency room-treated injuries. These injuries most commonly involve the hands, fingers, eyes, and head, and can sometimes result in amputations, blindness or even death. “It may be fun to watch children get excited and wave sparklers around, but many parents overestimate their children’s ability to handle fireworks, creating a dangerous environment for everyone involved,” says Dr. Manfredi.

“If you can’t resist putting on your own display, be careful and use common sense, and only do so if it’s legal,” Dr. Manfredi adds.

Before your family celebrates with a neighborhood fireworks show, check the fireworks safety laws in your area. To see if your city is one of the 296 communities in California that allow state-approved fireworks to be bought and used on Fourth of July 4, click here. In Texas, several types of fireworks are permitted that are illegal in California (like firecrackers), but local laws vary greatly; check with your fire department, city, or county for restrictions on possession and use.

Also, be sure everyone knows these fireworks safety tips:

  • Only adults should handle fireworks. Tell children to immediately leave the area if their friends are using fireworks.
  • Discuss safety procedures with your children. Teach children to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothes catch fire. Make sure they know how to call 911. Have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby, and show children how to use them to put out fireworks.
  • Read labels and carefully follow directions. All legal fireworks carry a warning label describing necessary safety precautions.
  • Never use fireworks indoors.
  • Be sure spectators are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never aim or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Never place your face or any other body part over fireworks.
  • Never try to reignite fireworks that malfunction.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Light fireworks only on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

“Even following all safety tips does not guarantee an injury-free home fireworks show,” cautions Dr. Manfredi. “For a celebration that’s more exciting than a block party, and as safe as possible, take your family to an official public fireworks display put on professionals.” That’s a much safer way for your family to enjoy the pyrotechnics; and besides, you don’t have to clean up the mess afterwards. 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.



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