Let Sparks Fly Safely This Fourth of July

Northwestern Medicine
Emergency Medicine and Trauma July 03, 2012
Tomorrow marks the celebration of Independence Day. Each year, I see numerous patients come into the emergency department that are injured in firework-related accidents. According to The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) two-thirds of these injuries occur in the days surrounding the Fourth of July. It’s important to remember to enjoy the festivities the holiday brings, but to do so safely too.

FireworksAccording to the NCIPC, nearly 9,000 people are treated for firework-related injuries in emergency departments across the country each year, 2,000 of which are eye injuries. Approximately 45 percent of firework injuries affect children and 72 percent of all firework injuries happen to men. While the person igniting the fireworks is the one who is most often injured, bystanders are also at risk.

A variety of injuries can be sustained from improper firework use. Most firework injuries involve burns and lacerations. These injuries typically affect the hands and fingers, head and face, and eyes. Firework accidents can also lead to severe burns, loss of sight and hearing, and –in some cases—fatality. Misuses of fireworks also have the potential to start dangerous residential fires.

Illinois state law prohibits the sale and possession of fireworks, with the exception of sparklers and some novelty items, but even these less explosive items can cause injury. Because they are smaller, many people think sparklers are safe for children, but that isn’t the case.

Sparklers are responsible for a large number of injuries, particularly to children. These devices get extremely hot and can cause burns. According to the NCIPC, sparklers cause 16 percent of injuries, bottle rockets are responsible for 18 percent, and firecrackers cause 24 percent of firework related injuries. Large, illegal fireworks only represent two percent of injuries. It’s especially important to remember that regardless of the size, fireworks are extremely dangerous and have great potential to cause injury.

The best way to achieve firework safety is to avoid handling the devices in general. Attending celebrations conducted by professionals is the smartest way to enjoy fireworks. Taking the proper safety measures and leaving the fireworks to the professionals, should help make for a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July for all.

Check out these NM Care Areas: