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Emergency rooms at hospitals like SSM Health St. Francis Hospital gear up for more visits especially around Fourth of July celebrations. In fact, next to flu season, the summer months are the second busiest time of the year.
“We see lacerations, hand injuries and eye injuries. But it gets as bad as partial amputation of fingers,” said SSM Health St. Francis emergency room and family practice physician Dr. Terry Symonds.
Injuries on the Rise
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent numbers, in 2015, 11 people lost their lives due to fireworks and 11,900 ended up in the emergency room.
“Most injuries happen with sparklers, firecrackers and bottle rockets,” Dr. Symonds said. “If you at least are aware of this, you can exercise a bit more caution around them.”
There were an estimated 1,900 emergency department-treated injuries associated with sparklers, 1,200 with firecrackers, and 800 with bottle rockets.
Sparklers burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – which is hot enough to melt gold! That’s why they are recommended only for children age 12 and older, and even then with adult supervision. “That’s hard for people to listen to,” Dr. Symonds said.
“We see burns, but they’re usually superficial, however, they can be more serious due to the intense heat of sparklers. Because I see more burns from sparklers after they’re out than while they’re lit, I recommend dousing spent sparklers in a bucket of water to avoid burns.”
Children Most at Risk
Every year children 15 years old and younger bear more than their fair share of fireworks mishaps. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 26 percent of the estimated 2015 injuries. Forty-two percent of the estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries were to individuals younger than 20 years of age.
While sparklers do result in burns, the serious injuries to the eyes and hands come from devices that go up in the air or explode.
The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 32 percent); head, face, and ears (an estimated 25 percent); eyes (an estimated 16 percent); legs (an estimated 15 percent); and arms (an estimated 4 percent). Sixty-five percent of the emergency department-treated injuries were burns.
Burns were the most common injury to all parts of the body, except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eyes occurred more frequently.
Dr. Symonds said with experience and proper precautions fireworks can be used in a safe way.
“Wear eye protection, and make sure not to re-light fireworks that appear to be duds. Also, make sure when lighting the firework that your head is not over it. Finally, when you are lighting fireworks, do not drink alcohol.”
In addition to a spike in injuries, Fourth of July is the busiest day of the year for fires. In 2013, according to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,400 structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires.
More than one-quarter (28%) of fires started by fireworks in 2009-2013 were reported on Independence Day. Almost half (47%) of the reported fires on the Fourth of July were started by fireworks.
Most commonly these fires involve brush or grass, but dumpsters, forests, even field crops are also heavily hit.
If you aren’t sure how to use fireworks properly, leave this work to the pros. Not only is it safer, but it’ll give you time to relax and enjoy the show.
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