The big day is almost here – the Fourth of July. And while it means you’re probably going to take part in a cookout, go swimming, don your best patriotic attire, and spend time with the ones you love, it very likely also means you’re going to either see or use some fireworks. Of course, everyone loves the large-scale city and community fireworks shows that draw huge crowds, but plenty of people equally enjoy setting off fireworks in their own backyards. The trick to doing that, though, is making sure to do it safely. When handled the right way, fireworks can be fun for everyone, but in the wrong hands, even sparklers can cause injuries. So, if you’re planning to take the do-it-yourself approach this Independence Day, you definitely do so with caution.
Blount Memorial Hospital emergency department medical director Dr. Jason Begue says the most common injuries associated with fireworks are burns and eye injuries. “Typically, the fireworks injuries we see involve projectile-type fireworks that have hit someone in or around their eye, or some hot ashes from the fireworks have gotten on a person’s skin and caused a burn,” Begue said. “One important thing to remember about fireworks is the bigger the firework is, the more dangerous it can be. If it shoots out some sort of large, flaming projectile, there’s always the possibility that it can hit someone and injure or burn them,” he explained. “Any type of burn to the eye can be very significant and can cause a lot of long-term damage. With skin burns, you can potentially set your clothes on fire, too,” he added.
“Often, fireworks-related injuries occur from users being careless,” Begue said. “Like with anything, if you’re a little or a lot careless, bad things can happen. Often, when we see injuries from fireworks, alcohol or other substances were a factor in the incident. Those things obviously can change a person’s judgment for the worse. Most people who set off backyard fireworks simply fail to take the proper precautions, such as not wearing goggles or standing too close. Never forget that 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 younger kids who are just holding sparklers can be burned if they don’t do things the right way. Sparklers are not as benign as many people think,” he added.
Fireworks injuries span all ages, too. “Usually, the person lighting the firework gets the brunt of the accident if there is one,” Begue said. “Sometimes, that’s a teenager, and sometimes it’s an adult. For instance, if you set off a lot of fireworks all at once and things start flying everywhere, it certainly has the potential to affect a lot of people and cause some serious problems,” he explained.
“Just take some simple precautions. Wear safety goggles, and know what the firework you’re setting off is supposed to do. Always make sure there aren’t any potential fire hazards around, and make sure everyone is out of the way when the fireworks go off,” he said. “Fireworks are not toys. They burn, explode and can travel a long way very quickly, so they definitely should be taken seriously. They’re absolutely fun, but a little common sense and preparation will go a long way toward keeping you and your family safe,” he added.