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Take Care with Fireworks

The day after the Continental Congress voted for our independence from Great Britain, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, expressing a wish that the act be remembered with “Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward forever more.”

Every Fourth of July since, he’s gotten his wish, with picnics, parades, and—especially—fireworks. Along with this great American tradition, however, lurks an element of danger that our primary care doctors at Cohen Medical Associates in Delray Beach want to remind you of.


The statistics

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

  • On average, 250 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th
  • The most injured body parts are: hands and fingers (33 percent of fireworks-related injuries); heads, faces, and ears (28 percent); legs (18 percent); trunks (12 percent); eyes (9 percent); and arms (8 percent).
  • More than 69 percent of the injuries were from burns.


The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that in 2016 at least four people died and 11,100 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment.

There’s also the added risk of fire. The NSC says that more fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year. And according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), each year fireworks cause an average of 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and nearly 17,000 other fires, which result in thousands of injuries.


Safe handling of fireworks

Celebrate the holiday, but keep these safety tips from the CPSC in mind when using fireworks:

  • 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 the untrained user.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children frequently suffer injuries from sparklers, which 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 or animal.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishaps.
  • 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.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.


Here are some additional tips from the NSC:

  • Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Ensure older children use them only under close adult supervision.
  • Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Only use them away from people, houses, and flammable material.
  • Better yet, grab a blanket and a patch of lawn, kick back, and let the experts handle the show.


If injuries do occur, get immediate medical help. If an eye injury occurs, do not allow the victim to touch or rub it, which could exacerbate any damage. Also, do not attempt to treat it yourself with any kind of flushing fluid—even water—or ointment. For burns, remove any clothing on the injured area, but do not attempt to administer any kind of first aid care. Instead, get immediate medical help.

Have fun this Fourth of July, but keep safety in mind as you celebrate the day.

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