The Fourth of July wouldn’t be the same without fireworks. But as a mother of four, I always have safety as a top-of-mind concern. As a hand surgeon, I see firework-related cases every year.
The best way to protect yourself from burns or injuries is to attend public fireworks shows and leave the lighting to the professionals. However, if you do use them at home, it’s important to know the potential dangers and how to safely use them so your Independence Day doesn’t result in a trip to the emergency room.
Typical fireworks injuries
On average, more than 45,000 people visit U.S. hospital emergency rooms for treatment of injuries on July 4 — up from about 40,700 on an average summer day. Fireworks are the No. 1 reason for the boom in visits, the Pew Research Center has found.
At Sanford Health, there are typically about 230 visits to the ER each day during the week of July 4, most of them being children and young adults.
About 40% of injuries we see are to the hands and fingers, specifically burns to the hands from people touching a sparkler or from fireworks going off earlier than expected.
In more serious cases, we see bigger injuries such as partial amputations, fractures, or holes through the hand. Eye injuries are also common.
Fireworks safety tips
To avoid injury, follow these tips:
- Know the laws and regulations. These can differ depending on where you live, so make sure you are aware of what is legal in your area.
- Make sure children are well supervised. Even “safe” fireworks, such as sparklers, need to be closely supervised. Sparklers can get up to 2,000 degrees and can easily cause burns.
- Leave the big shows to the professionals. Do not use explosive, canned fireworks, especially in a neighborhood or near a big crowd.
- Never put multiple sparklers together. Putting too many sparklers together could cause a big explosion.
- Never use your hand as a launching pad. The firework may go off before you expect it to and cause serious injury.
- Don’t relight anything that doesn’t go off the first time. Wait a few minutes, then soak the firework in water to ensure it’s completely out.
- Don’t mix in alcohol. Lots of injuries occur after people have been drinking.
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