Celebrating America’s Independence Day is synonymous with backyard barbeques and fireworks. But people need to be careful when handling the colorful pyrotechnics.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said that on average 230 people a day go to the emergency room with injuries from fireworks during the month surrounding the holiday. Sixty-two percent of these patients are treated for burns.
Adult males between the ages of 25 and 44 were most likely to suffer burns from fireworks. The most common causes of burns included firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and reloadable shells.
The National Fire Protection Association said 11,400 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries at emergency rooms across the country in 2013.
“Most of the time, we see minor burns or concussive burns,” said Dr. Sloan Manning, a family physician and the medical director of seven Novant Health PrimeCare 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 just to make sure the wound is healing properly, the doctor said.
Even sparklers can be dangerous. The brilliant fizzlers caused 41 percent of those emergency room visits. Nearly 80 percent of the injuries to children 5 and younger were caused by sparklers.
“Small kids are the most at risk from fireworks,” said Manning. “They are least experienced and most poorly supervised.”
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 safety glasses if 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.
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.
Best advice of all, according to the doctor, enjoy your fireworks from afar at a professional display.