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House Call: Firework Safety

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 12:43 PM EDT
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Every Fourth of July Holiday, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks—devastating burns, injuries, fires, and even death. Joining us for this week’s House Call is Dr. Kyle Hurst, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine, at United Hospital Center.

1. What can you tell us about the classification of fireworks?

A firework is anything from a sparkler or bottle rocket to roman candles and the M class fireworks which are the big, explosive fireworks everyone gathers around to watch every year.

In fact, the federal government prohibits the sale to consumers of the most dangerous types of fireworks. These banned fireworks include large reloadable mortar shells, cherry bombs, aerial bombs, M-80 salutes, and larger firecrackers containing more than two grains of powder. However, we sometimes think that sparklers are for children and that these type of fireworks pose no threat, when in fact injuries from sparklers are what we see most often in the Emergency Room this time of year.

2. Fireworks are obviously very dangerous, but how often do people actually suffer an injury?

Fireworks can cause serious injuries or even death. The following are some sobering statistics that we unfortunately see all too often in the Emergency Room: 9,100 people were injured badly enough to require medical treatment. Sparklers account for roughly one-quarter of emergency room fireworks injuries. Here is what we typically see in the ER when it comes to injuries from fireworks:

· 44% or more were injuries dealing with burns

· 28% were injuries to the hands and fingers

· 24% were injuries to the legs

· 19% were injuries to the eyes

· 15% were injuries to the head, face, and/or ears

· 10% were injuries to the trunk of the body

· 4% were injuries to the arms

· 64% of all fireworks injuries happen to males

· Children accounted for more than one-quarter or 36% of all fireworks injuries

· Nearly half of all fireworks injuries are to individuals younger than 20 years of age.

· Five deaths due to fireworks.

3. What do you think people are doing wrong?

So a lot of this stems from amateurs using professional-grade or illegal fireworks without the proper training. It is important to leave those to the professionals to prevent endangering yourself and others. However, 40 percent of those injuries were caused from legal, less powerful fireworks. When using these fireworks at home, you should handle them with care and follow all of the safety precautions. Happy 4th of July! Please stay safe on America’s birthday.

4. What precautions should we take in order to stay safe when using fireworks?

· Only use legal, consumer friendly products.

· Keep them out of reach of young children and keep older children under very close adult supervision.

· You should always wear protective eyewear and never use fireworks indoors.

· Keep away from any flammable material and maintain a safe distance after lighting.

· Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of a fire or to extinguish fireworks that do not fully go off.

· Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.

· Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

· Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.

· Do not bring your pet to a fireworks display.

· If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to the sound.

· Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.

· Never shoot fireworks of any kind (consumer fireworks, sparklers, fountains, etc.) near pets

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