According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 230 people nationwide require emergency care for fireworks-related injuries every day in the month around Independence Day. An acute care surgeon at University Hospital’s Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, Trauma Center would like to remind the public that these types of injuries can be prevented.
“Every summer we see an upswing in fireworks-related injuries as we get closer to the Fourth of July,” said Jeffrey Litt, D.O., an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and medical director of University Hospital’s burn and wound program. “The injuries that we see tend to occur on the hands and fingers primarily. However, they also occur on the face as well, and may even affect the eyes.”

Litt said that about 50 percent of fireworks-related injuries he and his colleagues treat are burns or blast injuries.

“Depending on what type of firework is involved, people also can experience explosion-type injuries,” Litt said. “There are certainly many powerful fireworks that have an explosive core. In addition to burns, these fireworks may also damage tissue and cause the loss of a limb.”

Fireworks-related injuries are often thought to be from large powerful explosives. However, the culprit is often one that is thought to be safe enough for children.

“The most common firework injuries that we see are burns from sparklers,” Litt said. “Sparklers are pretty and bright. Children run with them, they wave them around and even throw them up into the air. But what goes up must come down, and when it does, a sparkler is essentially a steel rod with white phosphorous on it that burns at a temperature of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, a third-degree burn can occur in less than a second.”

To prevent injuries, Litt offers several suggestions if you are planning to use fireworks:

Never allow young children to play with or light fireworks
Always have an adult supervise firework activities
Never place any part of your body directly over a firework when lighting the fuse
After lighting a firework, back away to a safe distance
Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that did not work
Never point or throw fireworks at another person
Keep a garden hose nearby in case of fire or to douse spent fireworks
Spectators should stay a safe distance from any firework display

“I enjoy fireworks just as much as the next person,” Litt said. “Even though I think they are fun to watch, I also think their use should be left to the professionals. However, if you are going to use fireworks this year, just remember to be smart and think safety first.”