Fireworks safety: Avoid the ER on the Fourth of July

This is a post by Dr. Robert Sicoli, co-medical director of our emergency department. Dr. Sicoli is a fellowship trained Pediatric Emergency Medicine physician with over 20 years of experience. This post originally appeared on Parents.com GoodyBlog

(Credit: iStock photo by rozbyshaka)

While lighting off a few bottle rockets or running around the backyard with a lit sparkler may seem like relatively harmless ways for kids to celebrate our nation’s independence, thousands of people each year are injured by fireworks, many of them landing in an emergency room.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 8,600 injuries involving fireworks in 2010. Forty percent of those injuries involved children younger than 15. While the safest bet is taking your family to a public fireworks display, many states allow the use of various types of fireworks for private use. If you live in a state that allows fireworks for private use, following these safety tips while using fireworks will help keep you and your family safe this Fourth of July.

 

Before use:

  • Make sure the fireworks you buy are ready to use. Avoid kits that require assembly or crafting your own at home.
  • Don’t buy fireworks with brown labels or wrapped in brown paper. Those are usually made for public displays and not intended to be used privately.
  • Always follow the directions on the label carefully.
  • Always light fireworks outside and away from combustibles, like dry leaves and grass.
  • Choose the proper area for the fireworks you’re using (i.e. don’t use bottles rockets in a wooded area or near a busy street).

During use:

  • Don’t let kids under 10 use any type of fireworks, even sparklers. Sparklers burn at a temperature of up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, never lash multiple fireworks together, never point them toward another person and make sure to wear eye protection.
  • Keep a hose or bucket of water nearby.

After use:

  • Never try to re-light a “dud.” Wait at least ten minutes and then douse it with water.
  • Soak all fireworks in water before throwing them away.
  •  Store extra or unused fireworks in a cool dry place.

While following these tips will help, sometime injuries happen. The most common areas of the body that are injured tend to be the hands, fingers, eyes, head and face, mostly with burns. If your child gets inured, considering the following:

  • If your child is burned by a firework and the burn is relatively mild (red or irritated skin), rinse it with cool water and apply an antibiotic ointment to the affected area.
  • If the burn is more severe (blistering, peeling and/or very painful) call your doctor or seek medical attention immediately.
  • If smoke or other particles get into the eyes, make sure your child doesn’t rub them; it will only make the irritation worse. Try cleaning their eyes out with cool water, but if your child complains of continued visual problems or is still in pain after flushing their eyes with water, seek medical attention.
  • Smoke inhalation is also another factor to consider when using fireworks. If your child has inhaled smoke, remove them from the smoky area and let them rest in a cool, ventilated area. If they continue to cough, their coughing is severe or they have difficult or labored breathing, consider calling 911 or bringing them to the emergency department.

The Fourth of July is a great time for families to have fun together. Here’s to a safe and happy Fourth!

For additional injury prevention tips, please visit our Making Safe Simple website.

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