Nearly 10,000 firework-related injuries are treated each year in U.S. hospital emergency departments, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Statistics also show that most firework-related injuries are burns that usually involve the hands, face, eyes, arms and legs. These burns often result from improper use of sparklers and other legal and illegal fireworks.
As firework superstores begin popping up throughout Indiana, among the various types of fireworks: bottle rockets can fly into peoples’ faces and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing; and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode at close range. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, novelty fireworks such as sparklers burn at around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to physicians at the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center can result in significant burns.
“Burn prevention is an integral part of the education services our burn center provides for the community. Almost 30 to 40 percent of the burns we see are preventable with the appropriate education,” said Dr. Rajiv Sood, medical director of the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Wishard and associate professor of plastic surgery, department of plastic surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine. “Injuries caused by fireworks are the most preventable kinds of burns.”
Many of these injuries could be avoided or minimized by following some simple safety measures. Doctors at the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Wishard, the only adult burn center that serves Central and Southern Indiana, recommend that people leave fireworks to the professionals, but if you choose to use fireworks at your home, it is important to take some special precautions, including:
• Never re-light a “dud” firework (wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water)
• Never build or experiment with homemade fireworks
• Make sure only adults handle fireworks
• Give children glow in the dark wands and noise makers instead of sparklers
• Read and follow all instructions
• Always have water on hand
• Never take fireworks apart or modify them in any way
• Check with local police and fire departments to determine which fireworks can legally be discharged in your area
In the unfortunate event that an incident occurs, it is important to respond to the situation immediately. Dr. Sood said if clothing catches on fire, the best way to put out the fire is to “stop, drop and roll.” Once the fire is extinguished, the clothes from the area of the burn should be removed, and any burned skin should be cooled for 5 to 10 minutes. He said the burned area should then be wrapped in a clean, dry dressing or warm blanket. As with any medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
For more information about firework safety, call the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Wishard’s burn prevention hotline at (866) 339-BURN.