Avoiding Fireworks Injuries
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Keep safe around fireworks.
By Karla Robinson, MD
The summer holiday season is often a time for family gatherings, cookouts, and fun in the sun.  With the month of July in full swing, the start of firework season is also upon us.  Although personal firework use is outlawed in several states, there are still many people affected each year by the dangers associated with a “backyard” firework display.
The most common injuries sustained from fireworks include burns to the hands and face from the explosives or unintentional fires, lacerations from flying fragments including glass and metal, finger amputation or loss of a portion of the digit from holding an explosive while it is lit, and eye injuries.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that over 30% of fireworks-related injuries each year involve the eye.  One out of every four of these injuries will result in permanent blindness or vision loss.
With almost 10,000 fireworks-related injuries reported each year according to a report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it is important to review these safety tips and know how to keep your friends and loved ones safe when using fireworks at home.
Adults only. Never allow children to handle or light fireworks.  Children 15 years old and younger account for approximately 40% of fireworks-related injuries annually.
Be prepared. Always use fireworks with a bucket of water or a hose nearby.  You never know if you’ll have to quickly extinguish an accidental fire or act swiftly to prevent burns.  It’s also a good idea to soak all used fireworks in water prior to throwing them away.
Cover your eyes. It is always advised to wear protective eyewear when using fireworks.  The danger from flying particles or the force and heat from the explosion can be a potential threat to your vision.
Stand back. Fireworks have been known to easily backfire, or discharge in the wrong direction.  Be sure to have plenty of space around you when lighting them to prevent accidents.
Stay alert. Studies show that often times the bystanders are the ones injured instead of the actual fireworks users.  If you are not the one lighting the fireworks, make sure you are at a safe distance and never standing in what may be the path of a firework explosion.
Drop it like it’s hot. Never hold fireworks while lighting them, as many injuries occur in the form of burns to the hand.  Even small fireworks like sparklers can produce serious burns.  Sparklers often burn at 2000oF, temperatures hot enough to melt metal.
Leave the duds alone. Never attempt to relight a dud.  It may suddenly ignite and discharge unexpectedly leading to serious injuries.  Always douse an apparent dud in water and throw it away.
One at a time. Never light more than one firework at a time.  The result can be quite unpredictable when lighting multiple fireworks at a time.  Keep it safe and manageable by using one at a time.
Keep your pockets free. It is dangerous to carry fireworks in your pocket.  The friction can cause the fireworks to spontaneously ignite leading to serious injuries and/or burns.  
 Always handle fireworks carefully, and one at a time.
While fireworks can provide lots of summer fun and entertainment for the family, there are lots of risks associated with their use.  A safe alternative is to attend public fireworks displays.   Often times local park districts, city or county governments, and other local agencies will offer professional firework shows for the community.  If you are interested in using fireworks at your home, it is always a good idea to first check with your local law enforcement agency to determine if the personal use of fireworks is legal in your area.
Firework Safety-Urban Legends 
1.  Sparklers are a safe form of fireworks.  This is false.  All fireworks have the potential for injury if not used safely.  Sparklers are a common cause for burn injuries as temperatures reach close to 2000 degrees.  This temperature is hot enough to melt metal.
2.  It is safe to tie firecrackers together and light them. This is a common myth and is false!  It is not advised to light more than one firework product at a time.  This causes the explosion to be unpredictable and can lead to injury. 
3.  Bottle rockets should be used with glass bottles.   Never light fireworks in glass containers.  The explosion can cause the glass to shatter leading to potential cuts and injuries from the glass fragments. 
4.  The biggest danger when using fireworks is to the person lighting the fireworks.  While it is true that the risk of burns to the hands and face and the loss or severe injury to digits is greatest in the person lighting the fireworks, studies show that the bystanders are most often injured.  Be sure to pay attention and keep a safe distance when observing fireworks being used.
This was printed in the June 1, 2012 - June 16, 2012 Edition

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