The Fourth of July feels like the unofficial start of summer – with its barbecues, fireworks, and fun with family and friends. Yet, the thrill of fireworks can also bring danger and pain. On average, 230 people go to the emergency rooms every day in the month around the Fourth of July with fireworks-related injuries. Most injuries involve the face, eyes and hands, with more than 50 percent of these injuries being burns.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals.
If you do choose to light fireworks at home, follow these safety tips:
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
- A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children. Sparklers and bottle rockets are also dangerous. Sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals. In 2014, they accounted for more than 23 percent of all estimated fireworks injuries.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
- Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
- Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby, in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
- FAA regulations PROHIBIT the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
- Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.
Have a safe and healthy Fourth!
Daniel Weinstein, MD, is medical director for Urgent Care at the University of Vermont Medical Center.