As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, many people are looking forward to the dazzling fireworks displays that celebrate our independence each year. But fireworks can be very dangerous—and fireworks injuries are becoming more common.
Back in 2011, there were more than 9,000 emergency department visits due to fireworks-related injuries. But in 2020, according to a US Consumer Product Safety Commission Report, more than 15,500 people were treated in emergency departments for injuries from fireworks, and 18 people died. Both of those statistics represent a 50 percent increase over the preceding year.
As an emergency physician with more than 15 years of experience and as a mother, I can assure you fireworks safety is extremely important. I have discussed the topic on local television news programs and, although I’ve had many first-hand experiences treating injuries caused by fireworks, I’m still very surprised when I read the statistics while preparing for those appearances.
Although my best advice is to leave fireworks to the professionals, if you do decide to put on a show at your family’s Independence Day celebration, please use caution. Here are some of the tips I think are most important.
Fireworks safety do’s
- Read instructions and all cautionary labels.
- Buy fireworks from reliable and reputable sellers.
- Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying sparks or debris.
- Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher on hand.
- Have a knowledgeable, sober adult in charge of handling all fireworks.
- Dispose of all fireworks properly.
Fireworks safety don’ts
- Give any fireworks, including sparklers, to children.
- Lean over fireworks to light them. Many people often do this to block the wind, but this is extremely dangerous.
- Point or throw fireworks at someone, ever.
- Light fireworks indoors or in cars. (This may seem common sense, but I have actually treated patients in the emergency department who have been injured because they ignited a bottle rocket while in a car.)
- Light more than one at a time, even if they are spaced apart on the ground.
- Try to re-light any fireworks that did not fully ignite. (There’s a reason they didn’t go off the first time.)
- Carry fireworks in a pocket.
- Wear loose clothing while using any fireworks.
- Set off fireworks in glass or metal containers—the fragments can cause severe injury.
- Combine ingredients of different fireworks.
Hope you have an enjoyable and safe Fourth of July holiday!
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About the author
Dr. Fagan is the medical director of the emergency department at Baylor McKinney. When not with patients, she's spending time with her husband and teenage daughter, Bree. Some of her favorite hobbies include riding horses, gardening and watching NASCAR.