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High Five for a Safe Fourth of July: Prevent Fireworks-Related Injuries

Backyard barbeques and brats are a great way to celebrate the holiday, but when it comes to firework festivities, don’t let an accident snuff out your fun.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission finds that an average of 280 people go to the emergency room around the Fourth of July because of firework injuries, and nearly half of the patients (47%) are children 14 years old or younger.  Individuals ages 15 to 44 accounted for 44% of the injuries, and the rest were 45 and older.

Burns were the biggest injury, with the top spot being the hands, followed by the face, legs, eyes, trunk, and arms.

Your hands are the most susceptible to injury because you’re holding and lighting the firework, putting your fingers, palm, and the top of your hand in the line of fire. The hand that holds the firework is the one most often injured.

And, a fact that is super scary is that sparklers, the firework we hand out to all the kids at the party, are the number one culprit for burn injuries.  Burning for about a minute, they can reach temperatures of 1800 to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s hot enough to cook an egg.  If one of the embers hits your hand or the wire wick burns down to your fingers, it can cause severe injury.

Placing cold water on the burn and antibiotic ointment, vitamin C, or aloe may seem like the right way to treat these injuries, but they likely need professional attention.   Wounds from sparklers and fireworks of any kind may leave behind bacteria and tetanus spores, sulfur dust, ash, charcoal, gunpowder residue, or fibers, which need surgical debridement and treatment. They could also lead to an infection or a permanent tightening of the skin near the wound.

Other types of fireworks that lead to the most injuries are reloadable shells, firecrackers, and Roman candles.

So, what should you do if you do get burned by a firework?

If the burn is superficial, barely scratching the surface of your skin, you can probably treat it at home, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it.  Clean it daily with soap and water, and put a thick coat of petroleum ointment on it.  Cover it with a water and an airtight bandage.  Keep the wound moist, rather than dry, and you should heal quicker with less pain.  If it doesn’t look good after a week, make a doctor’s appointment.

For more severe burns, put your hand under cool water, loosely wrap it to keep it clean, and head to the ER.  Putting ice on your burn isn’t a good idea.  It can cause frostbite and skin damage.  The ice also numbs the area and gives you a false sense that the burn is okay.

While the best ideas are to let the professionals put on the show or forget the fireworks altogether, there are ways to stay safer while having firework fun.

  • Don’t let young children handle or light fireworks, and always have an adult supervising.
  • Read all label instructions carefully.
  • If the firework comes packaged in brown paper, it was likely made for professional displays and could be dangerous for novices.
  • Don’t place your hands or body over any firework that you’re lighting. Step back as soon as it’s lit.
  • Don’t try to relight or pick up a firework that didn’t ignite correctly.
  • Light fireworks and sparklers one at a time.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose nearby to douse spent devices and to have accessible if something does go wrong.

Arora Hand Surgery hopes you have a great holiday spent safely with family and friends.  If you need more information about keeping your hands safe with fireworks, contact us through our website or call one of our offices, located in West Bloomfield, Warren, Macomb Township, and Howell.

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