Broderick Rhyant, M.D.,
chief physician executive,
Eskenazi Health Center
Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks during Fourth of July celebrations. Although lighting fireworks is a treasured tradition, thousands of injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments every year across the US, and those injuries can cause permanent damage mostly to the eyes, hands and face.
Firecrackers and bottle rockets cause a significant amount of injury; and banned, professional and homemade devices are responsible for many firework-related deaths.
Physicians in the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health urge everyone to refrain from lighting their own fireworks this Fourth of July because no fireworks are truly safe for people to light themselves at home. Avoidance is the key to avoiding fireworks injuries.
Injuries are often a result of playing with the devices or lighting them while holding them. Injuries can also occur when fireworks malfunction or don’t work as expected. Another reason to avoid lighting fireworks at home is when there are explosions taking place throughout the night, the noise can be disruptive and stressful, especially for parents of young children, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and pet owners.
If you do decide to light fireworks at home, exercise extreme caution, and be sure to follow these precautions:
- Never allow children to light or play with fireworks.
- Avoid buying fireworks in brown paper packaging, which is a sign they are made for professional displays.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move away quickly.
- If you are lighting fireworks, avoid wearing loose clothing that could catch fire.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of fire.
- Never try to relight a burned out or “dud” firework. Soak it in water and throw it away.
- Never take fireworks apart or modify them in any way.
This time of year is when you see children holding sparklers at family gatherings, and sparklers are a lot more dangerous than many believe. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals – and can quickly ignite clothing and many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. We suggest safer alternatives for children, such as glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.
If clothing catches on fire from a fireworks or grilling accident, the best way to put out the fire is to “stop, drop and roll.” If you sustain a burn, immediately remove any clothing or jewelry from the burned area. Stop the burning process by cooling the area with cool (not cold) water, and cover the area with a dry, loose bandage or sheet, and seek medical attention immediately. If injuries are severe or a fire has started, call 911 immediately.