June 30, 2014

Vanderbilt doctors urge caution with Fourth of July fireworks

Nothing says “Fourth of July” like fireworks, but doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center urge caution with consumer fireworks and suggest leaving these displays to the experts.

Vanderbilt doctors annually treat burns and eye injuries and even see patients with hearing loss due to fireworks usage.

Nationwide last year, eight people died and an estimated 11,400 people were hurt while handling fireworks, according to the latest figures from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A new CPSC study shows that 65 percent of injuries last year happened within the 30-day period leading up to the July 4th holiday.

“Fireworks are explosives and need to be treated as such,” said Corey Slovis, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “If you do not want your child handling or being close to explosives, then keep them at a safe distance away from fireworks.”

The three types of fireworks that keep hospital emergency departments busy during this holiday period are bottle rockets, firecrackers and sparklers.

Many assume sparklers are a safer alternative for Fourth of July fun, but sparklers burn at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns. Slovis said sparklers should never be close to clothing or other items that could catch fire, and children should not handle them.

“Accidents can happen in seconds, and lives can be forever changed when these recreational and often dangerous explosives are in the hands of everyday citizens,” said Blair Summitt, M.D., assistant professor of Plastic Surgery and medical director of the Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center. “Burns, lost fingers and blindness are just some of the terrible consequences of improper fireworks usage or fireworks not working properly.”

Fireworks Safety Tips

While it is best to leave fireworks to the professionals, if you plan to have fireworks at your celebration, follow these precautions and set some rules in advance.

• Always read and follow all warnings and label instructions.
• Never allow children to play with or light fireworks.
• The adult lighting the fireworks should always wear eye protection. No one should ever have any part of the body over the fireworks.
• Use fireworks outdoors only.
• Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).
• Light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house. Also keep away from dry leaves and other flammable materials.
• Light only one firework at a time.
• Never throw or point fireworks at other people or animals.
• Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
• Never re-light a dud firework. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
• Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and then putting them in the trash can.

*Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission 2013 Report.