Believe it or not, it’s nearly the 4th of July again. Not only are we already shaping up for a very hot summer, we also are essentially halfway through 2015. But we can’t let the heat or the rapid passage of time stop us from celebrating America’s big day with a literal bang. That’s because, for many of us, the 4th of July means, among other long-held traditions, fireworks. And while many will travel to one of the city-sponsored, professionally operated fireworks displays in our area, others will simply create their own backyard fireworks shows. If you’re taking this approach, it’s always important to use an abundance of caution, some advance preparation and a little good, old-fashioned common sense to make sure everyone has a safe and fun 4th.
Blount Memorial Hospital emergency department medical director Dr. Jason Begue says the most-common injuries associated with fireworks are burns, projectile injuries or eye injuries. “Eye injuries tend to be the most-serious fireworks-related injuries we see, however, sometimes fireworks also can cause pretty significant burns,” Begue said. “Even if the firework doesn’t necessarily have projectile parts, or parts that shoot off, it still has the potential to create an eye injury simply through the sparks it can produce. Obviously, anything that becomes a projectile can cause problems if it strikes someone the right way. With regard to burns, those usually occur when people aren’t as careful as they probably should be. They either don’t shoot off fireworks that often and don’t know as much about how they work as they might think, or younger kids have gotten some fireworks and aren’t being properly supervised when using them. Obviously, sometimes alcohol is a factor, as well, which can make people more careless and reckless,” he explained. “If a firework isn’t set up properly or doesn’t go off the right way, it can sometimes look like a dud, however, when someone gets close to pick it up, it will explode. I’ve seen that cause injuries several times, as well,” he added.
Begue says if you’re planning on shooting your own fireworks, you definitely should consider using gloves and/or protective eyewear. “If you look at professionals who do these large fireworks displays, they always use safety glasses and safety gear,” he said. “They also make sure to keep people out of harm’s way by keeping them at a safe distance. These are things people also can and should do at home,” he added.
When it comes to kids and fireworks, Begue says supervision is extremely important. “When it comes to kids and teenagers, a lot of times we see injuries that come from using fireworks in ways they were not intended to be used,” Begue said. “That happens fairly frequently. Kids sometimes shoot fireworks at each other, or they don’t make sure people are out of the way. Remember, these are things that are lit to explode. You always can have some type of mishap, and most of the time they happen to the person who is directly responsible for setting them off,” he explained. “Even a younger kid who is just holding a sparkler can be burned if they don’t do things the right way. Sparklers are not as benign as many people think,” he added.
Ultimately, Begue says, it’s important to remember that fireworks, like anything, can be dangerous if used the wrong way. “Fireworks are not toys. They burn, explode and can travel a long way very quickly, so they definitely should be taken seriously. Some common sense and some good judgment will go a long way toward keeping people safe when they’re using fireworks,” he said. “It will make it more fun for everyone, too,” he added.