Have fun with fireworks, but use caution

Jul 4, 2014

Credit Epic Fireworks / Flickr

The Fourth of July holiday conjures up images of cookouts, watermelon, time at the lake and, of course, fireworks to celebrate our country’s independence from Great Britain.  But the fun times can turn to tragedy if precautions aren’t taken when lighting the Roman candles, bottle rockets and other things found at local fireworks stands. 

Each year at Mercy Springfield, doctors in the Burn Unit treat 30 to 40 patients because of injuries caused by fireworks—around 18 with burns so bad they have to be admitted.  And Mercy surgeon Dr. Ken Larson says those injuries vary in severity.

“We’ve had some that are life threatening, certainly.  There’s a lot of eye injuries, a lot of finger/hand burns and a lot of facial-type burns,” he said.

Larson treats both adults and kids.  Young children, he says, are often burned by sparklers, a type of firework that many people let kids handle.

“The things that make it sparkle are usually magnesium and other metals that burn, and they burn at about 1200 to 1400 degrees fahrenheit, so, it’s hot, especially the old wire, metal sparklers,” he said.

He says even after the sparks die out, the wires are red hot, and children can get burned if they touch them or if they throw them on the ground and they or someone else steps on them with bare feet. 

Larson suggests watching a professional fireworks show.  But he acknowledges that there are people who like to light their own—he even does that occasionally.  So, if your 4thof July plans include setting off your own fireworks, keep in mind some safety tips.  According to Larson, kids should be closely supervised at all times and they should be told about fireworks safety.

"No horseplay while you're messing with the fireworks.  You start to get into the bigger fireworks--the aerials, the rockets and things like that, really, you know, you need a designated area,  you need to make sure that your launch tubes or whatever are either very securely fastened with something or surrounded with some bricks or rocks are something to keep them from tipping over," he said.

Other things to keep in mind, according to Larson:  don’t drink while seting off fireworks since that can be a dangerous combination.  And, we’ve all had the frustrating experience with duds—those fireworks that we spend money on that won’t discharge.  Larson says don’t try to re-light them.  They should be doused with water and discarded.