As we gear up for one of summer's the most anticipated nights, the Fourth of July, the ER team at Des Peres Hospital wanted to caution everyone about firework safety. I spoke with Kathy Waeckerle, RN, director of Des Peres Hospital's emergency department.
"While fireworks are beautiful to watch, they are dangerous to play with," said Waeckerle. "If not handled properly, fireworks can cause severe injuries to eyes and skin."
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries happen each year. Of these, more than half are burn injuries and nearly 30 percent are injuries to the eyes, one-quarter of which result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
Children under the age of 15 were more likely to be injured by fireworks. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) noted that children ages 5 to 14 had a two-and-a-half times greater risk of fireworks injury than the general population. Children under the age of 15 also account for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. So the best way to prevent these types of injuries is to leave the show to the experts and to make sure that children do not handle fireworks.
"Even fireworks sold at a grocery store, such as sparklers or other small novelties, are dangerous," said Waeckerle.
Sparklers, which can burn at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, accounted for 800 injuries in 2008. Firecrackers and bottle rockets that explode near a person may cause injury to the hands or face.
Children, who are naturally curious and want to see how things work, may unintentionally put themselves in harm’s way when playing near fireworks. They can get too close to a lit firecracker or try to examine a dud that hasn’t ignited properly. Always make sure that children have close adult supervision near fireworks.
If you or a friend chooses to handle fireworks, The National Council on Firework Safety offers these 10 tips:
- Use fireworks outdoors only.
- Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
- Always have water handy. (A hose or bucket).
- Only use fireworks as intended. Don't try to alter them or combine them.
- Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated shooter."
- Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
- Do not ever use homemade fireworks of illegal explosives: They can kill you!
- Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department in your community.
From everyone at Des Peres Hospital -- have a safe and happy 4th! And if you need them, Waeckerle and her team are prepared to care for you or your loved one.