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Avoid a Trip to the Hospital With These Fourth of July Fireworks Safety Tips

People watch Fourth of July fireworks

Thousands of Americans, many of them children, are injured each year in incidents associated with fireworks, according to the National Council of Fireworks Safety. Most of these injuries occur during the Fourth of July holiday and can include loss of fingers, blindness and serious burns.

“While the area of the burn may be small, it can be quite deep since the chemicals involved in fireworks generate an enormous amount of heat. The explosive effect of a fireworks blast can also cause serious soft tissue injury requiring surgery for repair,” said Alisa Savetamal, MD, FACS, Medical Director of the Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital.

Though the most disabling injuries occur with illegal firecrackers, such as M-80s, most injuries are caused by bottle rockets, sparklers, and Roman candles. At Bridgeport Hospital, the majority of Fourth of July burn injuries are related to people holding on too long to fireworks or going back to adjust it when it ignites.

Fireworks safety tips

Viewing public displays handled by professionals is the safest way to enjoy fireworks. Even then, keep a safe distance away. If you plan to celebrate with your own fireworks, these tips can help prevent injuries:

  • Never let children play with fireworks.
  • Never place any part of your body over a fireworks device.
  • Make sure anyone who handles fireworks wears safety goggles to protect eyes from flying sparks or debris.
  • Don't use bottle rockets. Their flight paths are often erratic, and rocket launchers sometimes explode, sending pieces of glass or metal flying.
  • Don't consume alcohol when using fireworks.
  • Read the cautionary labels.
  • Don't try to re-light fireworks that have not worked properly.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of malfunction or fire.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Follow label directions.
  • Ignite fireworks outdoors.
  • Light only one at a time.
  • Buy from reliable fireworks sellers.

In case of eye injury

If an accident injures someone's eyes, these actions can help protect the victim's sight:

  • Don't delay medical attention, even if the injury seems minor.
  • Don't attempt to rinse out the eye. This can be very damaging.
  • Avoid putting pressure on the eye. Avoid touching the injury.
  • Don't apply ointment or any medication to the eye. It's probably not sterile.

How to treat burns

Dr. Savetamal says in the event of a minor burn, run the injured area under cool running water for 20 minutes. If the skin is not broken, cover it with clean gauze and if the skin is broken, use gauze and an antimicrobial agent. If at any point the burn becomes painful, swollen or red, seek medical attention.

“Burns that cause blistering should be seen at a hospital. A blister means that the burn is at least second-degree, and with the high heat of fireworks, a third-degree burn is certainly possible,” said Dr. Savetamal. “Burns to the hands, face, joints, and sensitive areas should be seen at a burn center, as should a large burn or one where there is a concern for infection which may include redness, swelling, drainage, or worsening pain starting a few days after injury.”