Fireworks safety: Protecting yourself and others

Brian Snyder, MSN, APRN, CNP ProMedica Urgent Care

        June and July are the biggest months for fireworks use throughout the year. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 11,500 people were treated in emergency departments throughout the United States due to firework injuries in 2022 and 74 percent of injuries occurred in the weeks before and several weeks following the July 4th holiday.
        Firework safety is essential for protecting yourself and others.
        Common fireworks injuries
        The most common fireworks-related injuries are burns. Fortunately, most fireworks-related burns are first-degree burns that are generally not life threatening and can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics (painkillers) and good hygiene. First-degree burns are recognized by red, non-blistered skin and pain.
        However, second- and third-degree burns are a much bigger concern. The higher the degree of burn implies the more severe the tissue damage. The more damage that has occurred, the more complex wound care can be. Second-degree burns will present with blisters, pain and some swelling of the skin but third-degree burns will cause the skin to appear white, black or red with a leathery appearance.
        Burns can be prevented by simply leaving the fireworks displays to experienced pyrotechnicians. Should someone choose to perform their own fireworks exhibition, a degree of safety can be obtained by limiting any open ignition sources, limiting the number of people in charge of ignition, having a safety coordinator for the event, and avoiding decision-impairing substances.
        Other injuries potentially caused by fireworks are eye and ear injuries with flying debris and high-decibel sounds.
        Children and teens should not be allowed to use open ignition sources, like a lighter. When children are allowed to participate in the exhibition, it should be carefully supervised and only with fireworks that have the least potential for injury. Even a seemingly harmless sparkler can cause significant skin burns and eye injuries.
        Proper medical care for fireworks injuries
        Anytime there is a fireworks-related injury, basic first aid and the consideration of subsequent medical evaluation are recommended. Basic first aid for a first-degree burn is to run the burned area under cool water, wash the area with soap and use over-the-counter analgesics as recommended per the labeling instructions for pain management. A medical follow up should be scheduled in the next one-to-two days if there is no improvement in symptoms. Any burns more significant than first-degree and any eye or ear injury should receive immediate medical attention from a licensed provider.
        Urgent care can evaluate and treat first and second-degree burns, possible foreign body in the eye, ruptured tympanic membrane due to loud decibel injury, falls, scrapes and lacerations. Most other fireworks-related injuries, including third-degree burns, impaled objects in the eye or burns to the eye, will require emergency department evaluation.
        Please be safe and thoughtful not only of your own well-being, but also of the well-being of others attending your exhibition. Practicing fireworks safety can help to reduce the risk of injuries and tragedies during summertime celebrations.


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