By Jennifer Anderson, MD, PharmD.
Fireworks season is here! Everyone enjoys a beautiful fireworks display, but fireworks can be very dangerous if not handled correctly. In 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported nearly 12,000 fireworks-related injuries plus 11 deaths in the United States.
Men are more likely than women to be injured with fireworks. Children younger than 15 years old account for 26 percent of the injuries; close to half are under 20 years old. Injuries are most common to the hands and fingers, followed by the head, face, ears and eyes.
Burns are the most common firework injury. Many people believe that sparklers and small firecrackers are a safe way for children to enjoy fireworks. This is not true – they account for the greatest number of injuries. A sparkler can reach temperatures of up to 2,000 o F. That is almost 10 times hotter than boiling water! We certainly would not give our child a pot of boiling water to play with.
Bottle rockets are the next most common firework to cause injury. They can cause burns, bruising to the eyes and penetrating injuries.
The most common firework injuries to the eyes are bruises, jagged tears and foreign bodies. Firework injuries to the eye can cause permanent blindness. One out of every six eye injuries from fireworks results in severe vision loss.
Fireworks Safety Tips
Defective fireworks and misuse cause most firework injuries. For example, lighting a firework too close to someone, lighting a firework in someone’s hand, setting the firework off improperly or touching a lit firework. Bystanders are injured as frequently as the person lighting the fireworks.
These 16 tips for enjoying fireworks safely are from the National Council on Fireworks Safety and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Avoid injury from fireworks by attending a professional fireworks display, rather than purchasing fireworks for personal use.
- Stay at least 500 feet away from the fireworks when attending a fireworks event.
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Never touch or try to relight an unexploded “dud” firework.
- Have a responsible adult supervise all fireworks activities.
- Never let children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
- Do not consume alcohol and attempt to use fireworks.
- Always wear safety glasses when handling fireworks. Bystanders should also have eye protection.
- Light one firework at a time and quickly move away.
- Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
- Always have a bucket of water and water hose nearby when using
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
- Never experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Dispose of used fireworks by wetting them down and placing in a metal trash can.
- Protect your pets during fireworks season. Pets can be harmed by fireworks just as easily as people. Also, the sound of fireworks often frightens pets. Never shoot fireworks around your pets or take them to fireworks events. If fireworks are being used near your home, keep your pets inside, preferably in an interior room, to reduce the noise.
- Allow only trained pyrotechnicians to handle professional grade fireworks. Most firework deaths occur when improperly trained individuals try to use professional-grade fireworks.
If a fireworks injury occurs:
- Get medical attention immediately.
- Do not apply ointments.
- Do not take any blood thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
- If an eye injury occurs, do not rub or rinse your eyes. Do not apply pressure. Never attempt to remove an object stuck in the eye.
Dr. Anderson is an associate medical director with AFMC.