June 29, 2015

Vanderbilt doctors urge caution with Fourth of July fireworks

Fireworks and the Fourth of July can be a dangerous mix. 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.

“Fireworks are explosives and need to be treated as such,” said Corey Slovis, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

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

In a 2011 Vanderbilt study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, bottle rockets account for a disproportionately high number of eye injuries from fireworks.

Many assume sparklers are a safer alternative for July Fourth fun, but sparklers burn at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns.

“Sparklers should never be close to clothing or other items that could catch fire, and children absolutely should not handle them,” Slovis said. “If you do not want your child handling or being close to explosives, then keep them at a safe distance away from fireworks.”

According to a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), eight people died and an estimated 11,400 people were hurt while handling fireworks in the year 2013. The study found that 65 percent of fireworks injuries happen within the 30-day period leading up to the July 4th holiday, and one in four children who suffered firework-related injuries were bystanders in backyard fireworks displays.

“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 their 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) in case of fire.
• Light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, and 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 relight 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