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HOI-Affiliated Hand Surgeon Warns of Dangers of Mishandling Fireworks

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With California fully reopened, July 4th celebrations again feature many time-honored American traditions, including parades, barbeques, and of course, fireworks. However, the fun of fireworks can quickly turn to danger and severe injury, says Dr. Nicholas Rose, a hand surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Orange County, California, and warns that the mishandling of fireworks can send someone to the emergency room.

“There is no such thing as ‘safe and sane’ fireworks,” said Dr. Rose. “All fireworks carry the potential risk of burns or serious injury and trauma. The best advice is to forgo the backyard fireworks and instead attend or watch a local, professional fireworks show.”

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 280 people a day go to the emergency room with firework-related injuries around the July 4th holiday. The Commission also reported that about half of all firework-related injuries were burns, with hands and fingers being the most injured followed by injuries to the eyes, head, face, and ears.

Dr. Rose added that if you experience a firework injury, head to the nearest emergency room as soon as you can. In the meantime, he said, wrap the injury in a slightly damp clean cloth to keep it moist and apply compression to control bleeding. “Do not apply ice directly to an injury, particularly a burn,” he stressed. “Ice may hinder rather than help an injury.”

If fireworks are on your family’s agenda for July 4th and you’re unable to attend a professional display, here are some tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Dr. Rose to help you avoid a trip to the emergency room:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Always read and follow the manufacturer's safety instructions
  • Never ignite an exploding device while holding it in your hands, even if it is designed to shoot in a single direction (the device can malfunction)
  • Stand far away from the devices once they are lit
  • Never pick up or re-light "duds;" they may still be active and could explode in your hand or face
  • Never point or throw fireworks at each other
  • Never combine multiple fireworks together; many small fireworks can add up to the destruction of a larger device
  • Never place fireworks under other objects; the shrapnel can explode and cause facial or eye injuries
  • Consider eye and ear protection
  • To avoid injuries completely, consider watching the professional show on television if available.
“Most injuries are the result of carelessness, and many firework related injuries have long term and often devastating effects,” says Dr. Rose. “With a few simple precautions, you can stay safe this July 4th.”