Pediatrician Shares Fireworks Safety Tips
Fireworks are a common way to celebrate the 4th of July. Unfortunately there are many visits to the emergency room this time of year due to injuries from fireworks. Nearly half of those visits are for children. The hands, eyes, head, and face are the most common sites of injury. About 1 in 3 eye injuries results in permanent blindness. Burns are obviously the most common injury, followed by lacerations, bruises, and abrasions. The top three injury culprits are bottle rockets, firecrackers and sparklers. According to the fire department, sparklers can burn up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit at the tip – enough to melt some metals! Firework injuries do not just occur to the person lighting or using them; a recent review states that in 26% of cases, the child was a bystander. There was adult supervision 54% of the time of injuries, so accidents are very common and adult supervision alone is not enough to prevent injury.
- Being too close when fireworks explode: For example, when someone leans over to get a closer look at a firework that has been lit, or when a bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
- Lack of physical coordination: Children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely.
- Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
- Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.
So, to keep yourself and your family safe, leave it to the professionals. Go see a public display instead of buying and using your own. However, if you do use fireworks at home here are some safety tips:
- Buy fireworks only from reliable, licensed fireworks dealers. Licensed and reliable dealers will only carry those products that meet standards set and enforced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Read all directions, cautions, labels, and warnings on each individual firework item to understand the product performance and hazards associated with it.
- Do not allow young children to play with fireworks under any circumstances.
- Sparklers, considered by many the ideal “safe” firework for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing.
- Older children should only be permitted to use fireworks under close adult supervision.
- Always light fireworks on a hard, flat, and level surface to insure the stability of the items. Grass is generally not suitable for any item intended to be used in an upright position.
- Light fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from houses, dry leaves or grass and flammable materials.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that do not go off.
- Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
- Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Light only one firework item at a time.
- Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
- Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
- Be cautious of lighting any fireworks during strong wind conditions. Fireworks should be lit with the wind blowing away from the spectators.
- Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
By Pediatrician John Gleeson, M.D.
Dr. Gleeson is a board-certified pediatrician with
Esse Health O’Fallon Pediatrics
9979 WingHaven Blvd, Suite 206
O’Fallon, MO 63368