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Go Out With a Bang

Posted 6/16/2017 by UHBlog

Fireworks help us celebrate our most momentous occasions, from New Year’s Eve to the Fourth of July. Ask us about ways to keep everyone safe.

Go Out With a Bang

For many of us, the Independence Day weekend is a time for barbeques, neighborhood parades and colorful fireworks displays. But firecrackers can be as dangerous as they are pretty. Each year, more than 3,000 children under the age of 15 are injured by fireworks, says pediatric emergency medical specialist Jerri Rose, MD.

“Burns are one of the leading causes of injuries from fireworks, but there can also be serious injuries to fingers and hands from holding fireworks,” Dr. Rose says. “If they go off too soon, there can be devastating wounds or even amputations. Serious eye injuries – including those that result in permanent vision loss – can also result.”

To ensure your celebration is injury- and panic-free, Dr. Rose offers five tips to help you stay safe this Independence Day weekend, especially when fireworks are involved:

  1. Beware of sparklers. Many parents assume that sparklers are a safe alternative to firecrackers, but those hand-held firework sticks can reach temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, Dr. Rose says.

    “That’s hotter than your oven gets on its highest setting,” she says. “Sparklers can cause significant burns.”

    Indeed, sparklers and firecrackers are together responsible for 35 percent of all fireworks injuries. Glow sticks are a much better option for children, Dr. Rose says.

    “They light up, but they don’t heat up,” she says.

  2. If you plan on watching fireworks in a large public space, create a family emergency plan. “We live in interesting times right now,” says Dr. Rose. “Safety is always a concern when you’re out in large public gatherings.”

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t head out to Cleveland’s Public Square, Dr. Rose says. It just means you should be prepared for any type of emergency situation.

    “It’s always good for parents to talk to their kids about what they would do if they got separated from you,” she says.

    One important thing to have is an agreed-upon meet-up point. It is also helpful for kids to understand how to seek out a safe person, such as a police officer or a health professional, if they get lost. For younger children, Dr. Rose also recommends pinning identification and parent contact numbers on them in an inconspicuous location, such as on the inside of their shirt or pocket.

    “That way it’s easier for law enforcement and/or health professionals to contact you quickly if something unfortunate were to happen,” Dr. Rose says.

  3. Leave fireworks to professionals. “The most certain way to protect yourself and your family is not to use any fireworks at home and leave them to the professionals,” Dr. Rose says.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics urges families not to buy fireworks for their own use, since thousands of people – most often children and teens – are injured each year while using consumer fireworks.

  4. Make sure a responsible adult is in charge at any celebration where home fireworks are being used. “While the best way to ensure an injury-free holiday is to leave the fireworks to professionals,” Dr. Rose says, “if you find yourself at an event where fireworks are being used, a responsible adult should be supervising all activities.”

    Fireworks should never be used by children. Also, for everyone’s safety, don’t mix alcohol and fireworks.

  5. Use commonsense precautions. If you're involved in setting off any consumer fireworks, it’s critical to practice safety first, Dr. Rose says.

    That means you should:

    • Carefully follow cautionary labels and directions on the packaging
    • Wear safety goggles
    • Light fireworks one at a time, and then move back quickly
    • Resist the urge to pick up or re-light fireworks that do not fully ignite
    • Keep a bucket of water and a water hose nearby in case of an emergency or fire
    • Make sure children are kept at a distance (at least 20 to 30 feet) from the site where fireworks are being lit
    • Use fireworks in a clear area away from any buildings or vehicles to prevent fires
    • Never shoot fireworks of any kind near pets
    • Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone sustains a serious injury from fireworks

Jerri Rose, MD, is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Rose or any other doctor online.

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