Fireworks and Fourth of July go hand in hand – sparklers, firecrackers, and large community fireworks displays typically highlight the day.
But along with the fun and excitement these things bring comes the possibility for burns, injuries, and emergencies, especially when children are around.
“The thing I always stress when talking about safety is observation,” says Pam Hoogerwerf, Community Outreach and Injury Prevention coordinator and Director of University of Iowa Children’s Hospital’s Safety Store. “Observation is probably more important where burns and related injuries are possible because a quick reaction is often needed in these instances.”
Hoogerwerf stresses adult supervision anytime sparklers, firecrackers, or anything that involves ignition and fire is being used.
“We know people are going to use them, we just want to encourage them to do so responsibly,” she says.
The Fourth of July – and the month surrounding it – is the most dangerous time for fireworks-related injuries, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. In 2012 there were an estimated 200 visits to the emergency room for fireworks-related major injuries, and 60 percent of those, or about 120, were in the month surrounding the holiday.
The majority of fireworks-related injuries involve the hands and fingers, with 41 percent of injuries occurring there. The head area is next in line – 19 percent of reported fireworks-related injuries involved the head.
Nearly a quarter of all injuries – 23 percent – are caused by firecrackers, followed by sparklers, which cause an estimated 15 percent of injuries. Illegal or unspecified fireworks cause the most injuries at 25 percent, and were responsible for all six fireworks-related deaths in 2012.
That’s not to say fireworks can’t be an enjoyable part of any Fourth of July celebration, Hoogerwerf says. It’s just best to leave the big stuff to the experts.
“Let the professionals handle the fireworks displays,” she says. "Most big community events are staffed by people with fireworks certification who typically are members of the town’s fire department.”
“They’ll set the guidelines and tell you just how far back you have to be.”
For more safety tips and information, visit the UI Children’s Hospital’s Safety Store.