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Vanderbilt University Medical Center Reporter

Vanderbilt doctors urge caution with Fourth of July fireworks

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As the July 4th holiday weekend approaches, doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are urging caution with consumer fireworks and suggest leaving these displays to the experts.

Thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured each year using consumer fireworks. Vanderbilt doctors annually treat burns and eye injuries and even see patients with hearing loss due to fireworks usage.

“Fireworks are explosives and need to be treated as such,” said Corey Slovis, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “If you do not want your child handling or being close to explosives, then keep them at a safe distance away from fireworks.”

According to a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 11 people died and an estimated 11,900 people were hurt while handling fireworks in the year 2015. The study found that 67 percent of fireworks injuries happen within the 30-day period leading up to the July 4th holiday, and teenagers and children account for the highest rate of injuries. Burn injuries are especially high among those younger than 20.

The three most common types of fireworks that keep hospital emergency departments busy during this holiday period are bottle rockets, firecrackers and sparklers.

Many assume sparklers are a safer alternative for July Fourth fun, but sparklers burn at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns.

“Sparklers should never be close to clothing or other items that could catch fire, and children absolutely should not handle them,” Slovis said.

In a 2011 Vanderbilt study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, bottle rockets account for a disproportionately high number of fireworks-related eye injuries.

“Accidents can happen in seconds, and lives can be forever changed when these recreational and often dangerous explosives are in the hands of everyday citizens,” said Blair Summitt, M.D., assistant professor of Plastic Surgery and medical director of the Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center. “Burns, lost fingers and blindness are just some of the terrible consequences of improper fireworks usage or fireworks not working properly.”

Fireworks safety tips:
While it is best to leave fireworks to the professionals, if you plan to have fireworks at your celebration, follow these precautions and set some rules in advance.

  • Always read and follow all warnings and label instructions.
• Never allow children to play with or light fireworks.
• The adult lighting the fireworks should always wear eye protection. No one should ever have any part of their body over the fireworks.
• Use fireworks outdoors only.
• Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket) in case of fire. 
• Light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, and keep away from dry leaves and other flammable materials.
• Light only one firework at a time.
• Never throw or point fireworks at other people or animals.
• Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
• Never relight a dud firework. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
• Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and then putting them in the trash can.

Media Inquiries:
Jennifer Wetzel, (615) 322-4747
jennifer.b.wetzel@vanderbilt.edu




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