Celebrate safely this Fourth of July

During Fourth of July and other summertime holidays, fireworks are traditionally a big part of the celebration. While fireworks are beautiful to observe with their many colors and designs, they can also be very dangerous. (Many fireworks also are illegal for consumer use in the state.)

VCU News reached out to Samuel Bartle, M.D., emergency medicine specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, for a few tips on how to safely enjoy your Fourth of July.

What makes fireworks dangerous?

“Fireworks are a fun tradition of Fourth of July,” said Bartle. “The problem is people don’t realize how dangerous they can be.  They’re explosives, just like a stick of dynamite. They’re filled with gun powder to make them shoot into the air and explode, chemicals to make them colorful and they require a flame to ignite. They’re basically flaming projectiles.”

What are common fireworks-related injuries you see every year?

“Burns and eye damage are the most common injuries. I have seen children and adults with permanent eye injuries and severe burns – mostly on the hands, fingers, eyes, heads, faces, ears and legs.”

How do these injuries occur?

“A lot of burns come from sparks. People should be mindful that sparks can light clothes and even hair on fire causing painful burns. Sparklers are a common culprit. Parents don’t realize that serious injuries can occur from sparklers because they burn at temperatures hot enough to melt some metals. I have also seen penetrating injuries from a lit firework accidentally hitting someone.”

“I know that fireworks and the Fourth go hand-in-hand and that people are going to use them,” said Bartle. You can celebrate safely by following the tips below:

·        Adults need to be aware that fireworks are not toys and are not to be used haphazardly.

·        A responsible adult needs to be present at all times.

·        Fireworks should be used in a safe area – never near homes or vehicles.

·        Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

·        Never place any part of your body over a firework when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting.

·        Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully ignited.

·        Always have a water source nearby – a bucket of water or water hose – to put out flames quickly in case of any mishaps.

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Samuel Bartle, M.D.
Samuel Bartle, M.D.