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Enjoy the fireworks—and stay safe

July 03, 2015

What would the Fourth of July be without fireworks?

A lot safer, no doubt.

Every year, injuries from fireworks—most often to the hands or arms—send thousands of Americans to hospital emergency departments. 

Tim Harman, DO, a hand and upper extremity surgeon with The Hand Center says, "Typically, someone lights a firework, it doesn't go off, they pick it up to see why and then it goes off, causing severe injury that can result in the loss of digits." Harman says people underestimate how powerful fireworks are. 

The best way to avoid being burned or injured from fireworks is to resist the temptation to explode them yourself—and to enjoy them only at public events conducted by trained professionals.

Even then, be sure not to let children pick up any fireworks that might be left over after the show as they could still be active.

But if you do decide to use fireworks, always follow these dos and don'ts.

Do:

  • Buy fireworks from reputable dealers.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in the area where you use them.
  • Read warning labels and follow all directions.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose handy in case of a fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Dispose of fireworks properly—let them stop burning completely, then douse them with plenty of water before discarding them.

Don't:

  • Let young children play with or ignite any fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers can cause third-degree burns.
  • Let older children use fireworks without adult supervision.
  • Bend over fireworks when lighting the fuse.
  • Try to relight or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
  • Set off fireworks in glass or metal containers.

ketteringhealth.org/hand/

Sources: American College of Emergency Physicians; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission