What's Red, White, and Blue, and Dangerous All Over?
Tips to Keep Children Safe from the Hazards of Fireworks
The color and pageantry of fireworks go hand-in-hand with Fourth of July celebrations and other festive days throughout the year. The majority of Americans enjoy fireworks displays put on by professionals with extensive training in making crowds say "ooh" and "ahh." Still, there are times when people feel bold and confident enough to put on their own version of a fireworks extravaganza.
The problem is that each year many people end up in the emergency department (ED) for treatment of fireworks-related burns, eye injuries and damage to fingers, hands, legs, faces and ears. Almost half of fireworks injuries occur in people under age 20. Unfortunately, about seven people die each year from these injuries.
"Parents may think fireworks injuries result only from devices that cause loud explosions," says Sabina Singh, MD, emergency medicine physician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. "But they may not realize that many young children suffer injuries from firecrackers, roman candles and something as simple as sparklers. Sparklers, which are predominately used by young children, burn at temperatures of around 2,000 degrees. That is hot enough to melt some metals."
How to Have Fun and Still Say Safe
Should you find yourself in a situation where nonprofessionals are setting off fireworks ? assuming you are in an area where this is legal ? consider these tips to help keep you and your children safe:
- Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks. Adults should supervise all fireworks activities.
- All fireworks should be set off outdoors in open areas.
- Keep a fire extinguisher, bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of fire or mishaps.
- Be sure spectators are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately move back to a safe distance.
- Never place any part of the body directly over a fireworks device when lighting fuses.
- Don't re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at others.
- Don't carry fireworks in clothing pockets.
- Don't shoot off fireworks inside metal or glass containers.
- Once a device is completely burned out, place it in a bucket of water prior to proper disposal; this helps prevent trash fires.
- Don't buy fireworks packaged in brown paper; this may signal the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose dangers to consumers.
- All legal fireworks should have labels with warnings, precautions and instructions for safe use as mandated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In Case of Emergency
If your child suffers a fireworks injury, you should seek immediate medical help from your child's doctor or emergency room.
In the meantime, if a burn has been sustained:
- Remove clothing from the burned area.
- Run cool, not cold, water over the burn. Do not use ice.
If your child suffers an eye injury:
- Don't allow your child to touch or rub the eye as this may cause more damage.
- Don't flush the eye with water or attempt to put ointment on it.
- For best eye protection after such injuries, cut out the bottom of a paper cup and place it around the eye. This will protect the eye from further contact with anything, including a child's hand.