June 29, 2018

Vanderbilt doctors urge caution with Fourth of July fireworks

Jun. 29, 2018—Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are urging caution with consumer fireworks as the Fourth of July approaches.

Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are urging caution with consumer fireworks as the Fourth of July approaches.

Thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured each year using consumer fireworks. According to a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) the head, hands, fingers, face and ears are the body parts most commonly injured in fireworks-related injuries.

Vanderbilt doctors treat burns to extremities, eye injuries and hearing loss due to fireworks usage each year.

Fireworks (iStockphoto)

“Fireworks are explosives and need to be treated as such,” said Corey Slovis, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “The burns and injuries that result from improper use of fireworks are often devastating and life-altering.”

In 2017, eight people died in the United States and an estimated 12,900 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries sustained while handling fireworks, according to the CPSC study.

Approximately 67 percent of those firework injuries happened within the 30-day period surrounding the July Fourth holiday, and teenagers and children account for the highest rate of injuries. Burn injuries are especially high among those younger than 20.

The three most common 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 July Fourth fun, but sparklers burn at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns. There were an estimated 1,200 emergency department-treated injuries associated with sparklers and 300 with bottle rockets in 2017, according to CPSC.

“Sparklers should never be close to clothing or other items that could catch fire, and children absolutely should not handle them,” Slovis said.

“Each year, we treat patients with preventable injuries due to fireworks,” said Callie Thompson, MD, assistant professor of Surgery and a trauma and burn specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “The vast majority of these injuries are burns, but explosion injuries to hands and eyes are also common. These injuries can be extremely devastating and life-changing. As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, we want to remind everyone that fireworks are dangerous explosives and that fireworks injuries are preventable. Please leave the fireworks to the professionals.”


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.