The Fourth of July can be an exciting time, especially if a child is injured by fireworks.
Every year on the Fourth of July, Americans traditionally celebrate this great country of ours. Festivities often consist of getting together with family and friends, picnicking and then enjoying the colors and sounds of fireworks. Unfortunately, sometimes these fireworks can result in serious injury, especially to children.
Children, ages 10 to 14, suffer from fireworks injuries more than any other age group. In 1995, close to 5,000 children under age 14 were injured by fireworks and most of these injuries occurred in the month of July. Even sparklers (often considered the safest type of fireworks) are involved in many injuries, particularly to preschool-age children.
More than half of fireworks injuries involve burns, some very serious. Burns can be one of the most painful injuries for children. Other reported injuries have involved the hands, fingers, eyes and head and, in some cases, resulted in blindness, amputations or even death.
Many states have banned the public sale of fireworks, and others allow only sparklers or other smaller, novelty fireworks to be sold. In 1997 the Consumer Product Safety Commission adopted standards banning the public sale of fireworks containing more than 50 milligrams of powder, cherry bombs, M-80 salutes, large, reloadable shells, aerial bombs and larger firecrackers containing more than 2 grains of powder. Some individuals however will create their own heavy-duty artillery. These homemade or illegal fireworks can be extremely dangerous and should never be used. Even fireworks that are legally sold can be harmful if not used properly and with great caution.
Following fireworks safety precautions will go a long way to ensure that your family enjoys the holiday festivities but still remains at low risk for injury.
- Only adults should handle fireworks. Children should be taught to leave the area immediately if their friends are using fireworks.
- Review fire safety procedures with your children. Teach them how to put out a fire caused by fireworks with water or an extinguisher. Review how and when to call 911 and demonstrate how to "Stop, Drop and Roll" if their clothes catch fire. Always keep a bucket of water handy.
- Read all labels on the fireworks and follow the directions exactly as noted. All fireworks carry a warning label detailing safety precautions.
- Never use fireworks indoors or in a small, contained area such as a picnic shelter.
- Be sure all spectators are out of range before lighting the fireworks.
- Never aim or throw fireworks at another person.
- Never place your face, hands or other part of your body over the top of the fireworks.
- Never try to re-light fireworks that malfunction.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket.
- Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and other flammable materials.
- Never leave children alone with fireworks.
- Never permit anyone who has been drinking to handle the fireworks.
The Douglas County Safe Kids Coalition recommends that the safest way to enjoy fireworks is at a community approved, licensed event. In Lawrence, this free event is sponsored by the Lawrence Jaycees and begins at dusk on July Fourth. Parents may want to consider attending this impressive show rather than creating one in their own yard. However if you do choose to have your own fireworks, following the above safety guidelines will help make sure your holiday is a blast (but, it is hoped, a very safe and happy one).
-- Aynsley Anderson and Heidi Oberrieder are community education coordinators at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.