Fireworks Safety: How You Can Prevent Injuries

Tips for a fun, safe holiday for adults and children
woman enjoying fireworks

The Fourth of July brings colorful fireworks that symbolize bombs bursting in air to remind us of those who valiantly fought for our freedom and independence. But with so many community displays being canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to realize that those fireworks can cause a lot of pain if not handled safely. 

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According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 9,100 emergency room visits for firework-related injuries in 2018. And surprisingly, children between the ages of 10 to 14 accounted for the highest rate of those emergency department, fireworks-related visits.  

Emergency room physician Tom Waters, MD, says most fireworks-related injuries he sees involve extremities.

“Things we typically see in the emergency department involve injuries to fingers, hands and eyes,” he says. This is consistent with CPSC’s findings which reported 28% of injuries to the hands and fingers and 24% to the legs. 

Researchers with CPSC found that people got hurt most often playing with lit fireworks or because they ignited fireworks while holding them. They also experienced injuries when firework devices malfunctioned or didn’t work as expected.

Don’t give sparklers or bottle rockets to young kids

Many Independence Day injuries also happen because young children handle fireworks that people think are less powerful, such as sparklers and bottle rockets.

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Parents, beware. You might not realize that sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt some metals. In 2018, sparklers and bottle rockets combined caused an estimated 700 emergency department-treated injuries according to CPSC.

Those who were hurt most often were children between the ages of 10 and 14. So if you’re going to put on a home fireworks display, it’s best to keep the kids at a safe distance.

Only use legal, home-use fireworks

Fireworks incidents become deadly when banned, professional and home-manufactured devices are involved. Of the five deaths recorded in 2018, the victim was handling (or was a bystander to someone who was handling) a banned, professional or home-manufactured device.

How can you tell if the fireworks are legal or for home use? Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that they were made for professional displays and could pose a danger.

How to avoid the most common injuries

Avoid common injuries with these tips:

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  • Never lean over lit fireworks when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance right after lighting them.
  • If you find unexploded fireworks, leave them be. Never try to relight or handle them. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby the area where you’re lighting fireworks.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks are done burning, douse them with plenty of water before throwing them away to prevent a trash fire.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens using fireworks.
  • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors.

What to do if someone gets hurt

If someone you know is hurt lighting fireworks, you can start first aid before getting to the ER, Dr. Waters says.

“If it’s a burn injury, you want to cool the burn right away and get a clean, dry dressing on it,” he explains. “If it’s an injury from something exploding, you want to hold pressure on it to control the bleeding and get to the emergency department as fast as possible.”

Taking precautions will help you enjoy this summer holiday while staying safe.​

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