Fireworks are a big part of Fourth of July fun. But sparklers, fire crackers and other fireworks also can be dangerous if not handled safely. In fact, about 40 percent of firework injuries are to children and teens.
Last year on the Fourth of July, I was with a large group of friends. We were careful to keep ourselves and the children in the driveway with only one person lighting the fireworks in the street. Unfortunately, an unstable firework fell over once it was lit and it shot directly into our crowd — and hit the back of my leg.
I immediately felt the chemicals burn my skin and I could see the whole area turning white and blistering. A friend quickly took me into the kitchen and she began to gently clean the burns. We covered it and I had my doctor look at the burn the following week. I had a pretty bad second-degree burn that took a couple of weeks to fully heal.
Thankfully I wasn’t hit in the face and no children were hit by the firework, but needless to say, I’ll be keeping my distance this year.
In 2011, there were three firework-related deaths with an estimated 8,600 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. Fifty-three percent of the estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries were people younger than 20 years of age.
“Always provide constant adult supervision whenever children and fireworks are together,” said John Ruder, RN, BSN, burn program coordinator for Via Christi Regional Burn Center. “The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to watch them at a community event where professionals handle them.”
Last year, the Via Christi Regional Burn Center treated more than 20 patients injured by fireworks.
The United States Fire Administration reminds us that kids should never play with fireworks or sparklers. Don’t allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
Fireworks, including sparklers and flares, can cause serious burns as well as blast injuries that can permanently impair vision and hearing.
If you choose to use fireworks, follow these guidelines:
- Never light fireworks in your hand or near your face.
- Never ignite fireworks in a glass or metal container. The container may explode or shatter, sending shrapnel long distances with great force.
- Keep a bucket of water close by to douse “duds.” Never attempt to relight a firework.
- Sparklers can burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and are not made for very young children. Put all used sparklers in a bucket of water as they may remain hot for a long period of time.
- If clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll till it’s out, and then cool with water and call 911.
If an accident involving fireworks occurs:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Remove clothing, shoes, diapers and jewelry. These may hide burns and retain heat, increasing the skin damage.
- Cool the burn with water for a short time. Never use ice on a burn. It can make it worse.
- If in doubt, call for help and keep the patient warm and calm.