Although fireworks are popular in the summer, they can also be dangerous. Follow these tips to help your family stay safe when around fireworks.
Fireworks and the Fourth of July go hand in hand. Sparklers, firecrackers, and large community fireworks displays are typically the highlight of the day. But along with the fun and excitement comes the possibility for burns, injuries, and emergencies, especially when children are around.
More than 3,000 children under the age of 15 are sent to the emergency department each year in the United States because of firework injuries and burns (Safe Kids Worldwide). Lucy Wibbenmeyer, MD, burn surgeon at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, along with the burn team, and Pam Hoogerwerf, manager of Injury Prevention and Community Outreach at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, provide some tips on how to stay safe when around fireworks.
View fireworks at public firework displays, if possible
“Let the professionals handle the fireworks displays,” says Hoogerwerf. "Most big community events are staffed by people with fireworks certification who typically are members of the town’s fire department. They’ll set the guidelines and tell you just how far back you have to be.”
Instead of sparklers, give children glowsticks or a flag
Sparklers account for nearly half of the injuries to children under the age of five (American Academy of Pediatrics). Sparklers can also reach temperatures of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals—and are dangerous to young children. Dr. Wibbenmeyer recommends substituting sparklers with glowsticks or a flag to help prevent injuries.
Wear hearing protection when around loud noises
Fireworks can exceed 150 decibels, which can cause hearing loss after a few minutes (safe listening levels are considered 75-80 decibels). Hoogerwerf recommends wearing hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, when you must be near loud noises. Shop online or visit the Safety Store for hearing protection products, such as Ems for Kids earmuffs and additional products to help protect the ears.
If you plan to use fireworks in an area where they are permitted, establish a safety zone
Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or another mishap. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks. Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Instead, soak them with plenty of water and follow local guidelines for the proper disposal of fireworks, packaging, and debris. Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
If your child experiences a firework-related injury:
Seek immediate care. Call 911 immediately or go to the emergency room if there is a serious or life-threatening condition. In the meantime, Dr. Wibbenmeyer recommends following these guidelines:
For burn-related injuries:
- Cool the burn with COOL (not cold) water to stop the burning process
- Remove all clothing and jewelry from the injured area
- Cover the area with a dry clean sheet or loose bandages
For eye-related injuries:
- Do not rinse your eyes
- Do not apply pressure
- Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye
- Do not apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen unless directed by a doctor