Fireworks safety

Expert advice to avoid injury during fireworks season

With the Fourth of July holiday right around the corner, you’ve probably heard the familiar sound of fireworks popping off around your neighborhood.

The celebrations are sure to increase over the weekend, so it’s a good time to be extra mindful of the dangers posed by fireworks so that an innocent holiday gathering doesn’t turn tragic.

We recently spoke with our own Dr. John Conklin, ophthalmologist with UK Advanced Eye Care, about the risks posed by fireworks and how to safely handle them.

What are the most common fireworks-related injuries hospital staff treat?

In 2019 in the U.S., there were 12 deaths and 10,000 injuries related to fireworks. Of those injuries, 15 percent were eye-related, 16 percent head, face and ears, six percent torso/other area, 10 percent arms, 30 percent hands and fingers, and 23 percent legs.

Eye injuries typically consist of chemical/thermal burns, corneal abrasions, retinal detachment, and/or ruptured globe. Of these injuries treated in the emergency room, 900 were due to sparklers, 800 to firecrackers and 400 to bottle rockets. 50 percent of the ER visits were by those younger than 20 years old, 36 percent were those younger than 15, and 14 percent were children under five years old.

How common are fireworks-related injuries in the summer months, especially around July 4?

75 percent of fireworks injuries treated in an ER in 2019 occurred between mid-June and mid-July. An average of 280 people will go to the ER with fireworks-related injuries during the two-week window before and after the July 4 holiday. The majority (65 percent) of these injuries will likely occur in bystanders – not the fireworks handlers themselves.

What factors increase the risk of injury when people set off fireworks?

Fireworks-related eye injuries are the result of the combination of blunt force trauma and thermal/chemical exposure which can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss. The best way to avoid such injuries would be to attend a professional, public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for personal use.

Therefore, respect safety barriers, follow all safety instructions and view the display from at least 500 yards away. DO NOT handle unexploded fireworks. For assistance with undetonated fireworks, contact local fire/police departments.

If an eye injury occurs, seek immediate medical attention. Do not rub or rinse the eye, do not remove foreign objects in the eye, do not apply pressure or ointment or take any blood-thinning pain medications.

What advice would you give parents of young children with regard to fireworks safety?

Regarding children and fireworks, follow the guidelines listed above and remember, even sparklers aren't safe for kids as they can burn more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2017, sparklers accounted for 1,200 injuries and 1 fatality.

In summary, leave it to the professionals, but if you insist on purchasing/using your own fireworks, please do the following:

  • Don't allow young children near the fireworks.
  • Only under adult supervision should older children be permitted near fireworks.
  • No running/horseplay.
  • Set off fireworks in open areas away from homes, dry leaves, grass or other flammable materials.
  • Always have a bucket of water nearby to pour on "dud" fireworks or for other emergencies.
  • Don't try to re-use "dud" fireworks.
  • Don't light fireworks in a closed container or stand over when lighting.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas and store them in a cool, dry place.
  • Check instructions for special storage issues.
  • Follow local laws.
  • Never experiment with homemade fireworks.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment with UK Advanced Eye Care, visit our website by clicking here, or call 859-323-5867.

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This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.