LiveSmart: Have a Safe Fourth of July!

(This piece was written by Dr. John Janikas, director of emergency medicine for Albany Memorial Hospital and Samaritan Hospital.) 

Did you know nearly 11,000 people are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms yearly for fireworks related injuries? That’s according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report which shows the majority of those injuries occur during the weeks around July 4.

So before you launch into your holiday festivities, consider these safety reminders to protect you and your family:

  • Know the dangers. Celebrations can quickly turn into medical emergencies, and even tragedy. Every year, people suffer long-term injuries, amputations, or fatalities as a result of fireworks.
  • Fireworks related injuries can include serious burns, blast injuries, contusions, and lacerations from debris or projectiles. Areas most often injured are hands and fingers, head and face, eyes and ears, and arms and legs.
  • Injuries can also occur simply standing near someone using fireworks, which can be misused, malfunction, or misfire. Falling debris from others lighting fireworks in your neighborhood can also ignite something combustible outside your home and trigger a house fire and fatalities.
  • Nearly three-quarters of those injured by fireworks are males, half are children and young adults under age 20.
  • Remember, just because you can buy sparklers at your local store doesn’t mean they’re not potentially dangerous. Nationally, they’re the top cause of fireworks injuries treated in emergency rooms. Sparklers can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt some metals! They can also catch on clothing, hair and other areas.
  • There is NO totally safe firework. Don’t experiment with them. Leave it to professionals. If you do use them, the CPSC and American Pyrotechnics Association warn:

– Don’t allow children to handle fireworks/sparklers

– Don’t carry fireworks in your pocket

– Don’t light more than one firework/sparkler at a time

– Don’t try to relight or pick up fireworks that haven’t ignited fully

– Don’t consume alcohol or other substances if using fireworks

– Don’t use fireworks near houses, buildings or cars

– Keep a bucket of water or a running water hose nearby in case of emergencies

– Carry a cell phone in case of fire or if emergency services are needed

 The New York Fireworks Law passed last year authorizes the use of “sparkler devices” in counties outside New York City that allow them, including the majority of Capital Region counties. Note only sparklers on wooden sticks, not metal, are authorized, according to the New York State Police.

Follow these safety rules, and have a safe and happy holiday!

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