Published on June 28, 2021

In A Flash, Fireworks Can Be Dangerous

In a flash, thousands of Americans will be injured from firework mishaps during upcoming Fourth of July celebrations.

Last year when many fireworks shows were canceled during the COVID-19 outbreak, Genesis emergency departments experienced a steep increase in fireworks-related injuries.

Andrea Bladel, RN, BSN, trauma nursing coordinator, reports there were 12 patients treated for fireworks injuries by Genesis emergency departments in 2020 compared to 3-4 fireworks-related injuries treated in previous years.

Some patients were injured when fireworks exploded on the ground with individuals standing near the explosion. Others were holding the device when it exploded. Patients with life-altering fireworks injuries are often transferred for hand surgery or burn care. 

David Dierks, D.O., Genesis emergency department medical director, said the best way to avoid a trip to the emergency department is to leave fireworks displays to the professionals. 

“The professional fireworks displays are safer, bigger and better than anything we can do in our backyards,’’ Dr. Dierks said. “Even sparklers burning at nearly 2,000 degrees (Fahrenheit) can be dangerous. That is hot enough to melt some metals. Used improperly, they can cause burns and burn clothing.

“If kids use even something as seemingly harmless as sparklers, we urge close parental supervision and urge kids to stay in one place and not run with sparklers.’’

According to CPSC reports, sparklers account for more than a quarter of the total fireworks-related injuries seen in emergency departments. Also, children ages 5-9 were more than twice as likely as other age groups to be injured by fireworks.

Firecrackers account for about 20 percent of injuries.

Dierks said the most disturbing statistic is that children less than age 15 account for about 26 percent of fireworks-related injuries.

“A child will tell parents, ‘I can do it myself, I don’t need help.’ Often the child can’t do it themselves and there are injuries,’’ Dierks said. “Those injuries can be severe.

“One of the reasons we continue to see fireworks injuries, some of them severe or fatal, is that people don’t recognize how dangerous these devices can be. Children sometimes lack the physical coordination to handle any fireworks safely. Even with a sparkler, they can fall and suffer burns.’’

Here are recommendations from Dierks and from the Consumer Product Safety Commission to prevent fireworks injuries at home:

  • Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Never allow young children to ignite fireworks, including sparklers.
  • Do not buy fireworks packaged in brown paper or tubing, which is often an indication that the fireworks were made for professional displays.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of a fire or other mishap.
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.
  • After fireworks are burned out, douse the spent devices with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding them to prevent a trash fire.
  • Light fireworks outdoors in areas clear of houses, dry leaves, grass or flammable materials.
  • Do not smoke while handling fireworks.
  • Ignite fireworks only on smooth, flat surfaces.
  • Don’t place fireworks in containers before lighting.
  • Alcohol and fireworks are a dangerous combination.

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