The colorful displays, the crackles and booms, the faint smell of smoke – fireworks are so closely tied to the nostalgia of Fourth of July that it’s hard to imagine celebrating the holiday without them. But for thousands of Americans every year, fireworks also lead to serious burns or injuries.
So how can you make sure you’re celebrating the holiday safely?
The best way to safely participate is to seek out professional displays instead of attempting a show on your own, said Sunil Arora, MD, medical director of emergency medicine at OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
“Do the research to see where you can see them put on professionally and from the safety of your car or from a safe distance,” Dr. Arora said.
Using fireworks legally and safely
If you do choose to use fireworks at home, the first step is to check your local and state regulations on fireworks. The regulations can change from year to year, and it’s important to understand what you can do within the confines of the law.
After that, it comes down to common sense and exercising caution.
“Don’t use fireworks at home unless you know how to use them properly,” said Dr. Arora, and always make sure to follow the instructions and safety labels on each one.
Even when used properly, there are a lot of ways fireworks can unexpectedly cause damage – from bottle rockets shooting in the wrong direction to fireworks not going off when expected but then firing when someone goes to check them.
Be prepared for the unexpected by following some simple precautions:
- Never place any part of your body over a fireworks device.
- Make sure anyone who handles fireworks wears safety goggles to protect the eyes from flying sparks or debris.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Don’t try to re-light fireworks that have not worked properly.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of malfunction or fire.
- Be sure other people are out of range before lighting.
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
Remember that all fireworks are dangerous, and keep them away from children. Even smaller ones like sparklers can cause severe burns.
Care for fireworks injuries
If someone does get hurt or burned, it’s important to seek care immediately. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Even if the injury seems minor, it’s important to have a medical professional evaluate the wound for tissue damage, infection and more.
Last Updated: July 1, 2022