As Independence Day nears, emergency departments and trauma centers nationwide are already beginning to treat patients injured by fireworks. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in the month around July 4, about 200 people per day, on average, go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries. It also reports that hand and finger damage are the most common injuries, accounting for 32 percent of all reported injuries. That can have huge financial, social, and emotional implications. It can also change how you communicate for life.
“Losing a finger can mean no more texting, which really resonates with people today as a deterrent to risky summer behavior,” said John Santaniello, MD, an emergency department trauma surgeon and professor of surgery at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Lighting up YouTube with an awesome pyrotechnical display for your friends may result in blowing off your thumb, ending for good your ability to communicate using a handheld device…. Even fireworks that are classified as ‘safer,’ such as bottle rockets and sparklers, are responsible for some of the most serious wounds treated by emergency physicians.”
Here are some tips to help keep you and your family safe while celebrating Independence Day:
- If you choose to use legal fireworks, types of which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, carefully read and follow all directions on the packaging.
- Plan safe activities for children. Give them glow-in-the-dark wands and noisemakers as substitutes for sparklers and firecrackers.
- Teach children about the dangers of fireworks and other explosives. Discourage children from lighting them, and set a good example by never using fireworks yourself.
- Never approach a fireworks device after it has been lighted, even if it appears to have gone out. It is still likely to be excessively hot and may explode unexpectedly.
- Consider safe alternatives for celebrations. Check the newspapers for community fireworks displays handled by professionals or hold a celebration at home where you can supervise your children’s holiday festivities.
- If an injury occurs, call 911 or the local emergency phone number. Get immediate medical aid from experts who specialize in treating burns and other traumatic injuries.
- Make sure any area where firework debris may land is not dry, especially due to drought.
- Keep fire extinguishers and water hoses at hand, but always call 911 immediately if a fire starts.
By following these simple safety guidelines, you can help prevent additional limb loss for yourself and for your children and grandchildren.
Have fun-but have fun safely.