Safety Tips Can Reduce Risks from Fireworks on July 4

by Laurie Holloway

Experts at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt recommend that families attend professional fireworks displays instead of buying their own to shoot at home. However, if parents choose to buy fireworks for the Fourth of July holiday, supervision is the key to injury prevention, doctors say.

Children ages 5-15 face the highest risk of injury from fireworks because they’re adventuresome and experimental. This points out the need for close adult supervision of all fireworks activities.

Injuries to the eye are common, warns David Morrison, M.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Pediatrics with the Tennessee Lion's Eye Center at Children's Hospital.

"About 40 percent of injuries from fireworks involve the eye or face, and of those, bottle rockets are responsible for more than half,” Morrison said.

The concussive force of a bottle rocket explosion in or around the eye can cause lacerations to the eyelid, damage to the cornea, bleeding within the eye, as well as complete rupture of the globe and retinal detachment, Morrison said.

The potential for burn injuries is also a concern. While older children are the usual victims of bottle rocket injuries, Children's Hospital physicians have even treated toddlers injured as bystanders by bottle rockets that misfire or are poorly aimed. Children are at also at high risk of burn injuries from sparklers and other types of fireworks.

Here are some tips to help ensure a safe Fourth of July:

  • -Never let a child handle any fireworks without direct adult supervision
  • -Always read and follow label directions and wear eye protection
  • -Ignite outdoors, away from buildings and vehicles
  • -Light fireworks one at a time
  • -Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks
  • -Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks
  • -Never throw fireworks at another person
  • -Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers
  • -Don't hand sparklers to children under age 5, and make all children stand still with sparklers
  • -Keep a bucket of water to immerse all fireworks after use
  • -Dispose of any unused fireworks to keep children from using them unsupervised
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