Each year nearly 2,000 children are treated in the United States for fireworks-related injuries. Although illegal fireworks pose a significant danger, many of these injuries are from legal fireworks that you can buy at the local grocery store and do not leave the ground. Anything that gets hot enough to create a display of light using fire can injure a child whether it leaves the ground or not. Patrick Mularoni, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Sports Medicine Division at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital answers questions about firework safety and reminds parents how to keep their kids safe around the Fourth of July.
Let’s talk about sparklers in particular. If you are a parent and you want to light sparklers with your child what should you know?
Children should only use these items under the close supervision of adults. Sparklers are usually used by younger children who don't have great coordination. So we are handing a 5-year-old a wire that is less than a foot long and burns at 1,500 to 3,000 degrees. Show children how to hold sparklers away from their body and at arm’s length. Before lighting the first sparkler explain to children that sparklers should never be thrown, run with or used as pretend swords. When the sparkler is extinguished, it is still extremely hot and should be put directly into a bucket of water.
What kind of injuries do you historically see on the Fourth of July?
Obviously burn injuries are the most common. Sparkler injuries usually to small children typically lead the way. These injuries happen when a child grabs the end of the sparkler and when a child walks into a lit sparkler. The temperature of the sparkler can cause a third-degree burn very rapidly. This is especially problematic if the injury is to the eye as this can cause permanent visual loss.
The second most common injury is blast injuries causing severe burns or amputations. Many times fireworks will go off sooner than expected taking the person lighting them by surprise. Also fireworks that don’t go off, which are often termed “duds,” may explode unexpectedly and cause injuries. These types of injuries can be quite severe. We know that the risk of fireworks injuries more than doubles for children 10-14 years old compared with the general population.
Fireworks aren’t the only danger on Fourth of July. What are some final tips that parents can follow to keep the holiday safe?
Hot dogs are a common treat on the Fourth of July but these are a food that carries a significant choking risk for young children. A good tip is to slice them lengthwise before serving them to a child.
Many of us will be attending pool parties this holiday. Remember, if you are having a party around water, make sure that there is one adult assigned as the dedicated pool watcher. Drownings often happen at large parties when everyone, yet no-one, is watching the kids in the pool.
Finally, use sunblock during the day and don’t forget to bring bug spray out to the fireworks show because the mosquitos are looking to have a Fourth of July feast as well.