Summertime Blues: Getting Hurt by Fireworks

Raining Fire

Many people consider fireworks as integral to summer as the smell of BBQ and the splash of the swimming pool, but too often we forget how dangerous they are: fireworks, including sparklers, are a major source of pain and injury throughout the season.

Hundreds of people, both adults and children, flock to the emergency room with firework injuries ranging from the mild, such as minor to moderate burns, to the severe, such as missing fingers and toes. That may seem hard to believe, but consider this: even those small, handheld sparklers can burn at up to 1,800 degrees — that’s hot enough to melt gold. When you add to that the risk of a misfire, a slip, or one going off early, and it’s no wonder that so many people are injured by these every year.

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is by leaving it to the professionals and attending a public show. If you just have to celebrate at home though, follow some simple steps to prevent pain and injury.

First, make sure that the fireworks you’re using are legal in your area, and second, be sure to read the instructions carefully before using — this isn’t the time to assume you know how to use them.

Create a safe environment for using your fireworks: find an open space, never indoors, and keep buckets of water nearby both in case of emergency and to soak used fireworks before you throw them away. Clean up as you go and avoid leaving used fireworks lying around the ground, since they can reignite if they’re not completely out. Never point them in the direction of wildlife, homes, or other people.

Children should not be allowed to handle fireworks, and even teens should be well-supervised; people who have been drinking should also be kept away from the pyrotechnics. Regardless of age, everyone should keep a safe distance from each other while the sparklers or fireworks are lit; hair and loose clothing catch fire very easily, so waving fireworks are a hazard. Even after taking precautions, be prepared for injuries. If someone gets burned, remove the burning clothing immediately and run cool, but not icy, water over the area; depending on the severity, you may need to see a doctor. If an eye injury occurs, resist the urge to rub it or flush the area with water: instead, place a paper cup over the injured eye and seek medical attention immediately.

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