The Medical Minute: Fourth of July fireworks safety

June 27, 2007

As the Fourth of July approaches, barbecues, flags and, of course, festively colored explosives are holiday traditions across the country. Unfortunately, trips to the emergency room have also become traditional for those who misuse fireworks.

The best thing parents can do to protect their children is avoid using fireworks altogether. Attend public fireworks displays, but leave the lighting to the professionals. However, those who choose to play with fire -- beware. If not handled properly, fireworks can turn a holiday memory into a trip to the emergency room.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10,800 people were treated in 2005 for firework-related injuries. Most common were burns to the hands, eyes and face.

After ensuring fireworks are legal in an individual's area, explosives should be purchased only from reliable dealers that have been approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Do not use illegal explosives or attempt to make homemade versions.

When securing an area to use fireworks purchases, always light fireworks on a hard, flat and level surface and use one device at a time. Though not necessary, safety goggles have been recommended for the individual lighting the firework.

A minimum clear radius of 30 feet for fountains and other ground based items and 100 yards for any aerial product is recommended. Avoid lighting the fireworks in any area where there is dry grass or brush that could catch fire or near any flammable items. Never use fireworks indoors or shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.

Be cautious of lighting any fireworks during strong wind conditions. The fireworks should be lit with the prevailing wind blowing away from the spectators. If there is a significant wind shift during the time the fireworks are lit, the shooting site should be rearranged to accommodate the wind shift, or the shooting should be stopped until the windy conditions subside.

Though exciting to admire from afar, fireworks are not toys and should never be aimed as weapons.

If the device fails to ignite, do not attempt to relight or fix a "dud" firework. Let it stand for at least five minutes, immerse it in water and dispose of it properly.

Children should never play with fireworks; however, if children use sparklers, make sure it is kept far from their clothing, hair and face. Gloves are recommended. Sparklers can reach up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt gold. Educate children of this danger and teach them to practice safety at all times.

Additionally, be mindful of pets when celebrating the Fourth. The noise and lights of fireworks frighten some animals, therefore, it may be necessary to keep them inside for the duration of a display.

Also, do not use alcohol when lighting fireworks as any impairment increases risk of injury.

When finished, fireworks should be stored in a cool, dry place, and used devices should be discarded properly.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009