Blast Off to Safety
Are fireworks and sparklers really just harmless fun?
Everyone loves seeing fireworks on the Fourth of July, and it might seem more fun to get your own than to go to a professional show. Unfortunately, home-blasted fireworks and sparklers can pose a real danger.
“Every July, we see patients with everything from mild burns to explosion-type injuries to shrapnel injuries,” says Hoyt Frenzel, M.D., F.A.C.E.P., F.A.A.E.M., medical director of the emergency department at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “We always see some eye injuries from sparklers, as well — younger kids and teens horse around with them and get poked or burned in the eye.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks cause more than $32 million in property damage annually.
“Projectiles in the air can rain down debris that’s still on fire or smoldering,” Dr. Frenzel says. “Combined with wooden roofs and the hot, dry Texas summers, this can lead to fires.”
Many local ordinances prohibit the use of consumer fireworks within city limits. The use of these explosives can lead to legal problems, including fines or tickets.
Stopping Trouble Before It Starts
One of the best ways to avoid the injuries and problems with fireworks is simply not to use any.
“Fireworks are fun, but there are professionals with good safety training who put on professional shows every year,” Dr. Frenzel says. “You’ll get a better show, have a good time, and avoid the hazards and dangers of fireworks.”
If you must have fireworks, read the instructions carefully and use only as directed. Ensure that all children and teens are supervised, and do not let minors handle fireworks at all. The age group most likely to be injured from fireworks is people between the ages of 15 and 24. Avoid handling fireworks or sparklers when intoxicated, as this can increase the risk for grave injury.
Use sparklers with gloves, and never light more than one sparkler at once. Once they have burned down, immediately place them in a bucket of water or sand.
To find the nearest Texas Health emergency department, visit TexasHealth.org/er-locations.
Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.