Take Precautions With Fireworks, Sparklers

As Independence Day approaches, it’s common for families to shop for fireworks to light up near their homes and farms. Physicians in the emergency department at Mercy Hospital Washington hope more people protect themselves against firework-related injuries.

The peak time for fireworks is from mid-June through July.

“Every year we see people in our emergency room with burns, lacerations and wounds that range from mild to severe,” said Bret Riegel, MD, emergency department director. “It’s mostly teenagers and adults. Younger kids often get burned from sparklers, which seem harmless, but are 2000 degrees at the tip.”

People have lost limbs, suffered severe burns and lost their sight from firework injuries.

Mercy doctors give the same advice for firework safety that public safety officials offer. If people set off their own fireworks, do it where it is legal and where fire hazards are not present. To try to prevent burns and other injuries:

• Read and follow all warnings and instructions.

• Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

• Set up safety barriers.

• Only light fireworks on smooth, flat surfaces away from buildings, dry foliage and other flammable materials.

• Use a long match or lighter to ignite the wick.

• Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.

• Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction.

• Wear protective clothing and shoes.

“Precautions have to be taken because fireworks malfunction, or we think they malfunction, and accidents happen,” said Dr. Riegel. “They don’t take the presumed path, they don’t go off when we think they should. And then someone gets hurt.”

Not all burns need to be treated in the emergency room. Burns should be wrapped in a clean, cold towel or run under tap water to stop the burning process. They should be treated with topical burn ointments, never ice, butter or oil, which can do more harm than good.

Serious burns that are more painful and marked with severe blistering or blackened skin should be treated by medical professionals.

“When you’re dealing with fireworks, there’s a degree of danger. I would leave the fireworks up to the professionals,” said Dr. Riegel. “A lot of events host fireworks displays that your family can watch safely and enjoy with no risk at all.”