Fourth of July is almost here, which means it’s time to talk about fireworks. While fireworks can be beautiful to watch and a fun family tradition, it’s important to know that fireworks can pose a significant safety hazard to you and your children.
Dangers of Fireworks
Did you know most children under 15 years old makeup almost 1/3 of those treated for fireworks injuries in the United States each year? About 3/4 of all fireworks injuries occur around the Fourth of July. These injuries can vary from minor burns to blast injuries and even death. Unfortunately, these injuries have been on the rise for the past several years. The most commonly injured areas include burns or wounds to the hands, head or ears, and eyes. These wounds can happen because a firework goes off in a hand or pocket, a child is standing too close to a lit firework, picks up or touches a lit or recently lit sparkler, or from handling dud fireworks that go off unexpectedly. These injuries can cause lifelong impairments and are preventable.
Even celebrating at a professional fireworks show can cause hearing damage because the blasts are so loud. It’s important to sit back far from the action to reduce the sound burden or have children wear ear covers to reduce the noise level.
What About Sparklers?
While we often think of sparklers as child-safe fireworks, they are also a common source of injury. In fact, half of all firework-related burns in children under five are due to sparklers.
What makes sparklers so dangerous? First, they burn at over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to melt certain metals and can cause third-degree burns on a child or adult. The sparks can also set hair or clothing on fire, causing more widespread burning and injury. Sparks can also get in the eyes, causing burns that may require an eye specialist to treat.
Instead, try glow sticks. They are a safe and fun alternative for kids to light up the night!
The safest way to enjoy Fourth of July fireworks is to attend a professional display, such as those sponsored by cities or organizations. If you live where fireworks are legal and choose to shoot off your own, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of injury:
- Do not allow children to light or handle fireworks- even sparklers
- Never use fireworks if you’ve been drinking or using drugs
- Check weather conditions- dry conditions increase the risk of fires
- Have a bucket of water or garden hose nearby in case of a fire. Putting used fireworks in a water bucket also reduces your risk of a trash can fire.
- Never try to relight a dud firework
- Light fireworks one at a time and move back quickly after the fuse is lit
Be sure to educate your older children on keeping themselves safe around fireworks, too, as friends or other family members may pressure them into unsafe handling. Empower them to protect themselves and say no!
What to do if someone Gets Injured?
Firework injuries often need medical attention due to the high temperature they burn at and the blast injuries they cause. Minor burns (those with just redness and tenderness) can be cleansed with warm, soapy water and monitored at home with a pediatrician follow-up in a day or two. Any burns with blisters, cuts, or apparent deformities of the injured area should be seen in an emergency department. For severe injuries, call 911.
In case of a medical emergency with a child, determine where the nearest accredited, Level I pediatric trauma center is located. St. Louis Children’s Hospital has six pediatric ER locations across the St. Louis and southern Illinois region. These include St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital Belleville, Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital Shiloh, Children’s Hospital at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Children’s Hospital at Northwest HealthCare, and Children’s Hospital at Progress West Hospital.
From all of us at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, have a fun, healthy, and safe holiday!