Fireworks season is here! Nothing says Independence Day like fireworks but it’s not all fun and excitement. Some of those “oohs” and “aaws” may be because someone was injured by fireworks. About 12,000 fireworks-related injuries plus 10-15 deaths happen every year in the United States. Fireworks also cause about 18,000 fires that cost $32 million annually in direct property damage.
Burns are the most common firework injury. Sparklers and small firecrackers are not for children. They account for the greatest number of injuries. A sparkler can reach temperatures of up to 2,000 o F. That’s almost 10 times hotter than boiling water.
Bottle rockets are the second most common firework to cause injury. They can cause burns, bruising to the eyes and penetrating injuries. One out of every six eye injuries from fireworks results in severe vision loss or permanent blindness.
Males suffer most (74%) firework injuries. Half of all injuries are in people younger than age 20; with children under 15 years old suffering 26 percent of injuries. The most common injuries are to the hands, fingers and eyes, followed by the head, face and ears.
Fireworks safety tips
Here are the top 22 tips to stay out of an emergency room this holiday.
- Let the professionals handle fireworks – that’s the most important tip to avoid injuries. Stay at least 500 feet away from the fireworks when attending a fireworks event.
- Have adult supervision if you insist on fireworks at home.
- Designate one adult to ignite all fireworks. Hopefully, that will help avoid misuse stunts such as lighting a firework too close to someone, lighting it in someone’s hand or touching a lit firework. Bystanders are injured as frequently as the person lighting the fireworks.
- Wear safety glasses if you are the designated adult shooter. Bystanders should also have eye protection.
- Never let children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers. Don’t permit running or horseplay where fireworks are being used. Don’t allow pointing or throwing a firework at another person.
- Stay sober if you are the designated adult for home fireworks. Alcohol and drugs are involved in a high number of injuries and fires.
- Read the directions first and use fireworks as directed on the consumer product safety label. Never alter fireworks.
- Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from animals, buildings, vehicles, plants or anything that can burn.
- Have a bucket of water and water hose nearby for duds and to soak spent fireworks.
- Always use a “punk” or a lighter. Never permit an open flame, such as a candle, BBQ grill, fire pit or campfire, anywhere near fireworks.
- Light one firework at a time. After lighting, immediately move away to a safe distance. No part of the body should be over a firework that is being lit.
- Never ignite fireworks in any container, including bottle rockets. Bottle rockets cause about 70 percent of firework-related eye injuries and are banned in many places.
- Never try to relight an unexploded “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water before placing in an outdoor trash can.
- Dispose of used fireworks by wetting them down and placing in a metal trash can.
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket, backpack or purse.
- Protect your pets because they can be harmed by fireworks just as easily as people and the sound often frightens them. 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.
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Buy safe products from a reliable source. Fireworks are not regulated so don’t rely on labeling to determine if they’re safe. Defective fireworks and misuse cause most firework injuries.
- Allow only trained pyrotechnicians to handle professional grade fireworks. Most firework deaths occur when improperly trained people try to use professional-grade fireworks.
- Do not buy fireworks packaged in brown paper because they are usually for professional displays and can be dangerous for consumers.
- Never make your own fireworks. Report illegal explosives, like M-80s, cherry bombs, silver salutes and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.
- Avoid storing fireworks. If stored for a short time, keep them in a cool, dry place not accessible to children.
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.
Don’t spend the holiday in an emergency room! Celebrate our Independence Day safely this year and watch a professional display.
Safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Photo by nd3000, iStock / Getty Images Plus