Summer is here, so I want to talk about fireworks and firework safety. Most of us are very careful when we are around fireworks, but accidents can occur, so I want to help you be prepared. While most people know they are dangerous, there are some very alarming numbers from The National Council on Fire-works Safety. There are an estimated 9000 injuries from fireworks per year, with a large percent occurring in children under 15 years old. And boys are three times more likely to be injured than girls. The injuries occurred not only from firecrackers, but from sparklers as well. Did you know that a sparkler burns at 1800 F!
The best prevention for firework injuries is, of course, to not use them. But if you must, here are some rules to follow. First, check the local laws regarding fireworks in your area. If caught, you can face a hefty fine. And if you use them, please use them outdoors. Even sparklers can lead to a house fire. It’s also important to have water on hand in case of a fire. Fireworks are specially made and should be used only as intended. Don’t alter or combine fireworks as this can lead to unintended consequences. Never re-light a “dud” firework and soak all “duds” in a bucket of water to ensure they won’t go off. Make sure all spectators are a safe distance from the shooter and not in the line of fire. And the shooter should wear safety glasses. It’s imperative to review safety with your kids, especially with sparklers. They can cause serious injuries, so review rules about not sticking them near anyone’s face or clothing. All sparklers should be stuck in sand for 15 minutes after they go out, because they can still be very hot. Last, do not use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives.
One of the most dangerous injuries from fireworks are to the eyes. During my residency training in Birmingham, I saw an 8 year old child who was struck in the eye with a bottle rocket. The injury was so severe, he was transferred to the Eye Foundation hospital and admitted for several days receiving IV medication to reduce the inflammation. In the end, he lost an estimated 40% of vision in that eye. The firework in question was lit by his younger brother. In case you do have an eye injury, here are a few tips. Do not rub the eye or attempt to rinse it out. This can cause further damage to the eye. Don’t attempt to place any ointment or drops in the eye. These might affect a physician’s ability to examine the eye properly. If you have a child that really wants to rub or touch the eye, then you can place one half of a cup over the affected eye with tape to prevent any contact. And, get to the emergency room immediately. Any delay can be serious.
If your child gets burned, it’s important to follow some rules. Place all burned areas underneath cool running water for at least five minutes. If you have burns on the hands or feet, elevate them above the level of the heart. Seek medical attention immediately if you see any blistering and/or severely damaged skin. If you have any burned clothing, do not remove it. If you do have blisters, do not rupture them as it increases the risk of infection. And lastly do not place butter or any antiseptic cream on the burns.
Be careful, and if possible, leave the fireworks to your local city recreation department and call your doctor with any questions.