By James Hartert MD, MS, FACP, Vice President and Senior Medical Director, Medica Health Plans

Who can resist the Fourth of July traditions of cookouts, parades and of course, fireworks?  Families and friends gather to celebrate our country’s birth. After the cookouts and parades many people will light up the night with fireworks.

Whether you go to a professional fireworks show or plan your own display, safety is a must.  Fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a painful memory when people are injured, maimed or even killed while using fireworks.

All fireworks, by their nature, are hazardous and can cause injuries. Do you know which fireworks are involved in the highest number of injuries?

During a 1-month study period from June 20, 2014 to July 20, 2014 conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were an estimated 7,000 emergency department-treated injuries.

Among the different types of fireworks, firecrackers accounted for 20 percent of injuries; sparklers were involved in 19 percent of the estimated injuries; reloadable shells were associated with 9 percent of the injuries; and novelty devices were involved in 6 percent of the injuries.

Roman candles and public display fireworks each accounted for 4 percent of the injuries; and bottle rockets were associated with 2 percent of the injuries. Children under 15 years old experienced about 35 percent of the injuries and males of all ages experienced 74 percent of the injuries.

More than half of the injuries involve burns. The parts of the body most often injured were: hands and fingers; followed by the head face, ears; eyes; trunk; legs and arms.

There were also 11 reported fireworks-related deaths in 2014. So what causes the injuries?  Number one is the misuse of fireworks, followed by errant flight paths and debris associated with eye irritations.

How can you protect your family and have a great Fourth of July Celebration too? Go to a public fireworks display and leave the lighting to the professionals! Danger is their business.

If you still want to set off your own fireworks, then let us share these fireworks safety tips with you:

  • Is there anyone who doesn’t remember stepping on a red hot sparkler in the grass? Little arms are too short to safely hold sparklers, which can heat up to 1,200 degrees. Why not let the kids play with glow sticks instead? They can be just as fun and they don’t get hot enough to melt glass!
  • Supervise children very closely around fireworks at all times.

Take necessary precautions

  • Don’t wear loose fitting clothes while using fireworks.
  • Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult present when fireworks are being handled.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Always read and follow directions on the label.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Don’t throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep pets indoors and away from fireworks.
  • Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass.
  • Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush, leaves and flammable substances.
  • Always wear safety glasses when igniting fireworks.

Be prepared for an accident or injury

  • Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a device does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it.  Put it out with water and dispose of it.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • If a child is injured by fireworks, immediately go to a doctor or hospital. If an eye injury occurs, don’t allow your child to touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage.

Be sure that you are using only legal consumer fireworks that comply with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations, as well as state and local laws. A good way to check would be to call your local police or fire department. All fireworks must carry a warning label describing necessary safety precautions and instructions for safe use.

We at Medica wish you a happy, fun, safe and sane Fourth of July!


U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission-fireworks

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 2014 Fireworks Annual Report.