Fresh data is out showing that fireworks injuries have skyrocketed in recent years.
Analysts aren’t sure why the numbers are so high, but they want to make sure fireworks users know what it takes to stay safe and injury-free this July 4th.
The data backs that sentiment up. According to an annual report issued June 20, 2019, by the San Francisco-based Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks-related eye injuries have nearly doubled, from 700 in 2016 to 1,200 in 2017.
The CPSC notes that approximately half of all firework-related injuries are skin burns, with hands and fingers being the most injured followed by injuries to the eyes, head, face, and ears. Additionally, “most injuries are caused by legal fireworks that parents buy for their children, such as sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets, and Roman candles,” the CPSC reports.
The fireworks injury figures are high enough these days to grab the full attention of medical professionals.
“The Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that an average of 280 people a day will go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries during the two weeks before and after July 4th,” says Dianna L. Seldomridge, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Don’t be a part of these alarming statistics. Learn how to protect yourself and your children.”
Michael Spencer, an airplane pilot from Bowling Green, Kentucky, certainly wishes he was more careful handling fireworks.
Back in 2015, while on vacation in 2015, Spencer was badly injured by a shell-and-mortar style fireworks device and lost several fingers on both hands, undergoing more than 11 surgeries, according to the CPSC report.
“Fireworks can be extremely dangerous, even if they are legal,” said Spencer. “My advice would be to leave them to the professionals.”
Here’s how to prevent fireworks-related injuries
To keep the words “July 4th” and “emergency room” out of the same sentence this holiday week, use these professionally-approved tips to avoiding fireworks-related injuries around the holiday.
Keep people away. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a recent, five-year study showed that 65% of victims were bystanders. “Stacy Young was 100 yards away when an illegal firework sent shrapnel into her skull,” the AAO reports. “Ophthalmologists couldn’t save her eye. It had to be removed.” Consequently, keep people (especially children) far away from combustible fireworks, the organization advises.
Watch your legs. According to Julie Schottenstein, a board-certified podiatrist in Miami, Fla., your legs and feet are especially at risk from wayward fireworks. “Of the parts of the body most commonly injured by fireworks, leg injuries make of 17-18% according to the consumer product safety commission,” she says. “The best ways to avoid getting injured by fireworks: Stand at least 10-to-12 feet away always. And never kick a firework or step on one.”
Wear protective eyewear: Ophthalmologists recommend that every household have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear. “Stop by any hardware store and pick up some safety glasses for the entire family,” the AAO states.
Don’t assume a “dud” is really a dud. If a firework fails to detonate, treat it as a live firework – stay away from the firework for at least five minutes. “If five minutes passes and nothing happens, then soak the firework with water – you never want a firework to surprise you when it goes off,” says Andrew Roszak, executive director at The Institute For Childhood Preparedness, in Philadelphia, Pa.
Use a ‘punk’ to light fireworks. Never use matches or lighters, Roszak adds. “The flame on matches and lighters are erratic, and are susceptible to the wind and are harder to control,” he notes.
Let the professionals handle it. There is no such thing as ‘safe and sane’ fireworks, says Dr. Ying Chi, a hand surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Orange County, California. “All fireworks carry the potential risk of burns or serious injury and trauma. The best advice is to forgo the backyard fireworks and instead attend a local, professional fireworks show.”
Avoid “paper bag” fireworks. If you do go ahead and arrange for a fireworks display of your own, avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper. “That’s because paper bag purchases are often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers,” Chi says.
Get the waterworks ready. After fireworks complete their burning, “douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire,” Chi advises.
If you’re injured in the eye area, take these steps. If fireworks lead to an eye injury, the AAO advises taking the following steps:
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Do not rub the eye. Rubbing may make the injury worse.
- Do not attempt to rinse the eye.
- Do not apply pressure to the eye.
- Do not remove objects from the eye.
- Do not apply ointments or take pain medications before seeking medical help.
Don’t use ice on any bodily injury. If you’re injured anywhere on your body from, fireworks, head to the nearest emergency room ASAP. “In the meantime, wrap the injury in a slightly damp clean cloth to keep it moist,” Chi advises. “Do not apply ice directly to an injury, particularly a burn,” she stressed. “Ice may hinder rather than help an injury.”
Don’t take an injury-Free July 4th for granted
Most injuries are the result of carelessness, and many firework-related injuries have long term and sometimes devastating effects says Dr. Chi.
“With a few simple precautions, you can stay safe this July 4,” he says.
Others agree, noting that the best move for amateur fireworks engagers is too pull the plug and stay far away from any Roman Candles or M-80’s this July 4th holiday.
“When it comes to using fireworks at home, how about not using them at all?” says Dr. Holly Phillips, the RxSaver at RetailMeNot.com and the site’s resident medical expert. “About 10,000 people are injured severely from fireworks each year, most involving the hands, eyes, and face.”
Even seemingly mild sparklers account for about 10% of fireworks injuries, Phillips notes. “They actually can burn at 2,000 degrees – that’s hotter than a blowtorch and hot enough to melt some metals.
“That’s definitely not something you want to hand to kids,” she says. “In fact, fireworks are best left to the professionals but if you insist on using at home, keep kids far away and keep a fire extinguisher handy in any fireworks scenario.”