Published on in Health Tip of the Week
Fireworks are a big part of America’s Independence Day celebrations. But for thousands of people every year, the thrill of using fireworks at home is offset by pain and lasting damage from injuries and property loss caused by them.
Children are at special risk of injury from fireworks, and account for more than a third of emergency room visits for fireworks-related injuries. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are more than twice as likely as people in other age groups to be injured by fireworks.
“If you want to experience the spectacle of fireworks with your family, attend a public fireworks display,” says Gina Duchossois, an injury prevention expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Even if fireworks are legal to purchase and use in your community, they are not safe around children.”
Over 12,000 fireworks injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 2017. (Statistics for 2018 have not yet been published, but the numbers have been rising every year.) They included burns and serious eye and hand injuries. Some of the injuries resulted in death.
The risk of burns from sparklers
“Some people treat sparklers much too casually,” says Duchossois. “They allow children to play with them as if they were toys. But sparklers burn at an extremely high heat: 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to melt some metals. The sparks can cause burns and eye injuries, and touching a lit sparkler to skin can result in a serious burn.”
More than half of the fireworks injuries to children under the age of 5 are caused by sparklers. Among the casualties listed in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2017 Fireworks Annual Report was a 4-year-old girl who died from a sparkler-caused injury.
If you think your older children are mature enough to use sparklers safely, only let them do so under close adult supervision. Do not allow any running or horseplay while they are using sparklers.
Basic fireworks safety
If you do choose to use fireworks at home, keep children well away from them and follow these basic safety practices:
- Know what types of fireworks are legal in your community before buying or using them.
- Have a bucket of water or garden hose on hand in case of a fire or other accident when using any fireworks, including sparklers.
- Light fireworks one at a time, on a dry, flat surface, and move back quickly to a safe distance.
- Never place any part of your body over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
- Never try to relight or pick up fireworks that have not gone off as expected.
- Never set off fireworks in glass or metal containers.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- After fireworks have ignited, douse them with water before putting them in the trash.
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