Why Lighting Fireworks At Home Can Be Seriously Dangerous

fireworks safety tips

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It wouldn't feel like summer without a loud, colorful fireworks display. But if you're not going to a professional show and instead are planning on firing them off from your own backyard, know this: They can be incredibly dangerous.

"We get our fair share each year of people who are injured by fireworks," says Eric Adkins, MD, an emergency room physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, adding that he often sees burn injuries on the fingertips and hands. "A lot of people think it won't happen to them, but it can and does," Dr. Adkins says.

Unfortunately, these burn injuries happen more often than you'd think. "They're extremely numerous and can be quite severe," says David Cutler, MD, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

Sparklers burn at a temperature of about 2,000°F—enough to cause third-degree burns.

In 2017 alone, there were at least eight deaths and 12,900 injuries from fireworks-related incidents, with more than 36 percent of injuries involving children younger than 15 years old, according to the most recent figures from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Because fireworks hold such a high risk for serious burns, fires, and eye injuries, many organizations, such as the National Safety Council and the National Fire Protection Association, recommend people avoid consumer fireworks entirely and enjoy public displays put on by professionals.

But if you insist on lighting them yourself, commit these fireworks safety tips to memory so you can prevent yourself, family members, and friends from getting hurt.

Know your local laws

"In many places, fireworks are illegal," Dr. Cutler points out. If they are legal, read the caution labels and instructions for every firework you buy.

Stay far away from M-class fireworks, like M-80s or M-100s

These illegal explosives are extremely unpredictable and dangerous, and you should report them to the fire or police department or call the toll-free hotline 1-888-283-2662 if you see them.

Don't buy fireworks packaged in brown paper

These are usually meant to be handled by trained professionals.

Always be 'on' around fireworks

Fireworks are no joke, and you or someone else can get seriously injured while using them. "These are very risky devices that require extreme caution," Dr. Cutler says. Pay attention to your surroundings.

Never let children handle fireworks, even sparklers

Sparklers burn hot enough to melt some metals—imagine what they could do to a kid's hands. "These can be very, very hot and cause significant burns to people," says Dr. Adkins. Keep a close eye on children at any events where people are lighting fireworks.

Keep pets inside

You may want your pup to join in on the fun, but most animals become extremely frightened by the loud noises and burning smells of fireworks and are likely to run away if they're not kept safely inside.

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Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks

Bottle rockets are notorious for shooting into people's eyes, so keep them covered whenever possible.

Don't light a firework in your hand

"There's no reason to ever do this," Dr. Adkins says. "It should be well-secured on the ground in a way that it can't tip over and be directed at other people.

Clear a large area around fireworks before you light them

Light fireworks in an open, clear area away from cars and buildings to minimize contact with things that could catch fire. Don't let anyone enter that space immediately before and after you light it, Dr. Adkins says. Keep in mind that you'll need to make the space even larger with bigger fireworks.

Never re-light a 'dud' firework

"Sometimes you get a fuse that may be slow‚ then you go back and it goes off," Dr. Adkins says. "If it's a bigger firework, you can have some serious injuries." Wait at least 20 minutes before handling it, then soak it in a bucket of water. Keep buckets of water or a hose nearby at all times.

Avoid alcohol while handling fireworks

It's just an accident waiting to happen, so save the booze for afterward. "You need to apply a lot of common sense," Dr. Cutler says.

When you're done, douse all firework devices with water

You don't want a trash fire on your hands.

If you experience a large burn or any injury to the eyes from fireworks, seek medical attention immediately, Dr. Adkins says. Don't apply ointment, take pain meds, or attempt to remove any objects from the eye before going to the hospital, and try not to rub or rinse your eyes either.


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Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men's Health, Women's Health, Self, Glamour, and more. Editorial Assistant Jenae is the editorial assistant for Prevention.com, where she regularly covers nutrition, beauty, celebrity workouts, and health trends.

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