With July 4th coming up, parents have been firing off lots of questions about whether or not they should allow their older children to light fireworks, even the smaller types.  Let me see if I can shoot off some information on this topic.

Vermont law only allows the use of sparklers less than 14 inches long with no more than 20 grams of pyrotechnic mixture, keeping them in compliance with Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations.  New York forbids all kinds of fireworks from being used in private, including sparklers and small novelty items.  For larger public displays, permits must be obtained from local authorities like the police and fire department.  That said, it is still possible for adults and older children to get hold of fireworks and shoot them off despite these laws – and that’s when the injuries start to occur, with common firework injuries involving the hands, fingers, eyes, head and face.  Every year, almost 10,000 visits to the emergency department are due to fireworks injuries.

So what do I recommend so these injuries don’t occur?

  • Don’t try to shoot off fireworks yourself – rather, enjoy them in a public display where they are ignited by experts who know what they are doing.
  • If you are living or visiting in Vermont, and your older child or teen wants to light sparklers, make sure an adult is present to supervise.
  • If you do give an older child a sparkler, make sure they are lighting them outside and away from the face, clothing and hair.  Believe it or not, sparklers can reach 1800 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt gold, and certainly hot enough to light clothes on fire and get badly burned.
  • Don’t allow children less than 12 years of age to light or hold a sparkler.
  • Follow the directions on the sparkler you are buying, and if there are no directions, odds are it is an illegal firework and increases the risk that a serious injury may occur once it is lit.
  • Wearing eye protection is a must.
  • Avoid carrying fireworks around in your pocket since the friction of doing so could set them off.
  • Light one at a time, and never relight a dud or pick them up after they have been used until they have been doused or placed in a bucket with water.
  • Finally don’t forget your pet, which has sensitive ears and can be very frightened or stressed on July the 4th.  Keep pets indoors during public fireworks displays.

Hopefully tips like this will blast away any ideas you might have had of lighting your own fireworks and instead encourage you to enjoy the public display in your area.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.

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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