With July 4 coming up, parents have been firing off lots of questions about children and fireworks. Let me see if I provide a burst information on this topic.

Every year, almost 10,000 visits to the Emergency Department are due to fireworks injuries. Vermont and New York state laws allow people to light sparklers less than 14” long or similar small novelty items. New York City, however, forbids all kinds of fireworks, including sparklers and small novelty items.

A larger public display requires a permit from local authorities, such as the police and fire department. Despite these laws, it is still possible for adults, and kids, to get hold of fireworks and shoot them off. That’s when the injuries start to occur, which can involve the hands, fingers, eyes, head and face.

So what do I recommend to prevent these injuries?  Don’t try to shoot off fireworks yourself. Go enjoy them in a public display where experts who know what they are doing are in charge.

If you are in Vermont, and an older child wants to light sparklers, make sure an adult is present to supervise. Don’t allow smaller children under 12 years of age to light or hold a sparkler.

Follow the directions on the sparkler you are buying. If you do give an older child a sparkler, make sure they are lighting them outside, one at a time. They should use proper eye protection and hold the sparklers away from the face, clothing and hair.

Believe it or not, sparklers can reach 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to melt gold and certainly hot enough to light clothes on fire and get badly burned.  Please avoid carrying sparklers around in your pocket or in your child’s pockets. The friction of doing so could set them off!

If an eye injury occurs, do not try to wash out the eye. Seek the nearest emergency facility as soon as possible.

Finally don’t forget your pet! They have sensitive ears and can be very frightened or stressed on July 4. So keep your pets indoors during public fireworks displays.

Hopefully tips like these will blast away any ideas you might have had of lighting your own fireworks. Instead, leave fireworks to the pros and enjoy the public display in your area.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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