The Fourth of July is quickly approaching, and it along with New Year’s Eve, are the two occasions where a lot of people incorporate fireworks into celebrations. While they can be beautiful to see, by their nature, fireworks are hazardous and lead to thousands of injuries and even deaths each year. Therefore, safety is key, and if you plan on lighting fireworks for the upcoming holiday, you should take steps to create a safe holiday environment.
Young children are most at risk for firework injury
Last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) analyzed fireworks-related deaths and injuries related to the 4th of July celebrations in 2019. The data looked at incident reports and what they learned may surprise you as it showed:
- 12 non-occupational deaths, with seven of those deaths due to misuse of fireworks
- 10,000 injuries with an estimated 7,300 going to the Emergency Room (ER) for treatment
- When it came to who was injured, an overwhelming majority were men; 66 percent of those injured were male compared to 34 percent female
- When it came to age, children age 0-4 had the highest rate of ER visits, followed by those aged 15-19
When it comes to types of injuries, not surprisingly, burns to the hands, arms, and legs were the most common wound treated. When it came to the cause of wounds, surprisingly, sparklers caused the most injuries, followed by firecrackers and bottle rockets. This information is a good reminder that even the most innocent item, a sparkler, can severely injure someone and that fireworks, while part of the holiday celebration, must be used with utmost caution to keep everyone safe.
Steps to make your 4th of July a safe and fun holiday
One of the safest ways of watching fireworks is to let professionals handle the colorful explosives and attend an organized outdoor gathering. However, if you live in an area where it’s legal to set off fireworks, and you plan on celebrating, make sure you put safety first, and that includes:
- Purchasing only legal fireworks from a reputable store and make sure you read all instructions on use before lighting a firework.
- Making sure you are in an open area away from houses, trees, and other greenery as a wayward firework can, under dry conditions, cause a fire
- Always keep a bucket of water or a hose nearby in case of an accident, and always soak used and unused fireworks in water before putting them in the trash.
- Never try to relight a firework that did not work. Douse it with water and throw it away.
- Though popular, bottle rockets should be used sparingly as they are the most erratic firework and can explode before launching or veer off course, possibly injuring someone.
- Being responsible for those around you, especially young children. Keep in mind, a simple sparkler can heat up to over 900°, so keep it away from clothing, the face and hair.
If for any reason there is an accident, especially if there is an injury to the eye, don’t delay medical attention as some injuries can cause long-term effects. West Jefferson Medical Center’s ER is equipped to handle emergencies for all ages, but know that it does have a special ER for seniors and one for children.
While we love to see those in our community, we don’t want to see you in the ER, so please, practice safety first as we all celebrate the 4th of July!
About Dr. Andrew Mayer:
Dr. Andrew (Andy) Mayer is a board-certified emergency physician and is the medical director of the West Jefferson Medical Center's Emergency Department. He grew up on the Westbank and has been proudly working at West Jefferson for the last thirty years.