Summer is synonymous with pool parties, backyard barbecues, family reunions and fireworks. But if you’re not careful, the festivities can quickly turn into ER visits.
About 15,600 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from fireworks in 2020 according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. This was up from around 10,000 the previous year. At least 18 people died from fireworks-related incidents in 2020, up from 12 the previous year. Of the 18 deaths, eight of the victims (44%) had used alcohol or drugs prior to the incident.
Fireworks also start an average of 19,500 fires per year, including 1,900 structural fires, 500 vehicle fires and 17,100 other fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These fires cause an average of five deaths, 46 civilian injuries and $105 million in direct property damage per year.
Over the past five years, 43 patients have been hospitalized at Parkland Memorial Hospital’s burn center due to firework burns. A few were young children who were accidentally hit by fireworks when an adult lost control or they went off unexpectedly. Some of the injuries were severe enough to require hospitalization, skin grafting and rehabilitation.
Last year, between July 1 and July 5, 30 people presented to the Parkland emergency department with burn-related injuries. Of these, six were listed as injuries caused by fireworks.
According to the American Burn Association (ABA), burns from fireworks typically involve the hands, face, arms and chest. Fireworks can be dangerous and everyone should remember that they can cause serious injury or even death. And while they may not look as dangerous as the fireworks that light up the night sky, the sparklers burn hot enough (1200 degrees Fahrenheit) to cause third-degree burns. To give an idea of the comparison, a sparkler is hotter than the heat needed to boil water, bake a cake or melt glass.
People don’t realize how hot sparklers can get and how dangerous they can be for children, even under supervision. It only takes a second to drop a sparkler on a foot or rub it against someone’s clothing. In terms of accident statistics, sparklers are the most dangerous type of fireworks.
If it is legal to buy fireworks where you live and choose to use them, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and NFPA recommend the following safety tips:
- Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Never allow young children to handle fireworks
- Older children should only be used under close adult supervision
- Anyone using or standing near fireworks must wear eye protection
- Never light them indoors
- Use them only away from people, houses and flammable materials
- Switch on only one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after switching on
- Never ignite devices in a container
- Do not attempt to relight or tamper with faulty fireworks
- Soak unused fireworks in water for a few hours before throwing them away
- Keep a bucket of water nearby to completely extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire
If a burn occurs, the ABA recommends that individuals cool the burn with cool (not cold) water to stop the burning process, remove all clothing and jewelry from the injured area, cover the area with a clean, dry sheet or loose bandages and seek medical attention.
On this Independence Day, as you celebrate with friends and family, make sure safety is at the top of your 4th of July list. If fireworks and patriotic music are on your list this year, check out the celebrations held by various cities and towns in your area. The shows are best left to the pros. After all, a few minutes of excitement aren’t worth a lifelong injury.
Sarah Scoins is a Burns Awareness and Injury Prevention Educator at Parkland Burn Center. She wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.
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