Celebrating America’s Independence Day is synonymous with backyard barbecues and fireworks. But people need to be careful when handling the colorful pyrotechnics.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said that on average, 245 people a day are treated in U.S. emergency rooms with injuries from fireworks during the month surrounding the holiday. More than 50 percent of those injuries are burns.
Adult males between the ages of 25 and 44 were most likely to suffer injuries caused by fireworks, particularly from firecrackers, sparklers, bottle rockets, novelty devices, Roman candles and reloadable shells.
Approximately 11,000 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries at emergency rooms across the country in 2016, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“Most of the time, we see minor burns or concussive injuries,” said Dr. Sloan Manning , a family physician and the medical director of 11 Novant Health Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine and Express Care clinics in the Triad. Most burns caused by fireworks affect the fingers and hands, and he usually sees first- and second-degree burns. More serious burns would be treated at the emergency room.
Normally, patients seen for burns would be treated with burn creams and antibiotic ointments. Sometimes, the patients require a follow-up visit to make sure the wound is healing properly, the doctor said.
Even sparklers can be dangerous. In fact, about two-thirds of the injuries to children under age 5 were caused by sparklers. “ Sparklers can heat to around 2,000 degrees and can easily create burns,” said Manning. “Firecrackers and smoke bombs can get very hot and may explode unexpectedly.”
Manning noted that small children are the most at risk from fireworks. “They are the least experienced and may be the most poorly supervised,” he said. “It’s a judgment call as to when your child may be experienced enough to handle fireworks, but it should never be without supervision.”
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following advice on enjoying fireworks safely:
- Never allow children to handle fireworks.
- Never relight or pick up fireworks that have not ignited properly.
- Keep a garden hose or bucket of water handy in case of fire.
- Light fireworks one at a time.
Additional safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety include:
- Follow local laws on what fireworks are legal.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting off fireworks.
- Fireworks and alcohol don’t mix.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Don’t carry fireworks in your pockets.
- Don’t shoot fireworks into metal or glass containers.
Manning highly recommended wearing safety glasses when handling fireworks. He also said not to buy any unlabeled fireworks packaged in brown paper. “These are professional-grade fireworks not meant for amateurs,” he warned.
“If you’re going to handle fireworks this holiday season, you want to have water nearby, you want to make sure you’re using properly prepared fireworks, and you want to make sure you’re not relighting fireworks that did not go off or explode,” Manning said. “You never want to point or launch fireworks at anyone, these are dangerous projectiles.”
In North Carolina, you must be 16 or older to buy fireworks. The state fire marshal’s office permits the use of sparklers, smoke devices, snake and glow worms, party poppers and toy pistol caps. Firing of aerial or explosive fireworks, Roman candles and rockets by consumers is illegal in North Carolina.
Display fireworks, the type held by cities, require a permit, insurance and a number of other certifications.
“Have adequate supervision and adequate safety measures in place,” Manning said. “Don’t take chances with fireworks. Everyone wants to have fun and enjoy the show, but we want to make sure it’s a safe show.”