Sparks of Danger Come with Celebration

July 2, 2012

Fourth of July marks a time for celebrating our country’s independence with picnics, BBQs, pools and fireworks. Sadly, it is also a time that can lead to a trip to the emergency room if precautions aren’t taken. 

In 2010, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated nearly 8,600 people for fireworks-related injuries - two in five were children under 15. Most of the injuries happen mid-June through mid-July. While fireworks are beautiful to watch and fun to enjoy, Mercy recommends leaving them to the professionals.

“Each year, from the time area fireworks vendors open for business in late June until the late hours on the Fourth of July, we typically see several fireworks-related injuries in our hospital ER and in our clinic,” said Julie Martin, nurse practitioner at Mercy Convenient Care, the hospital’s urgent care service for minor emergencies. “Most injuries are not serious, but all of them could be prevented.”

Martin explained the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to leave them to the professionals and enjoy the organized shows available in the area. For families and individuals who choose to shoot their own fireworks, however, Martin recommends being cautious and following these tips: 

  • Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
  • Set up safety barriers when setting off fireworks at home; children are curious and may get too close.
  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.
  • Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
  • Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction.
  • Always wear protective clothing. Many times kids are swimming and stop to do sparklers. This is never a good idea, as swimwear doesn’t provide good coverage.
  • Shoes are a must. Aside from stray sparks that can land on the feet, there are often hot leftover casings that may cause serious burns if stepped on.

Surprisingly, even sparklers, which are mistakenly considered safe by consumers, can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and were associated with 1,200 injuries according to the CPSC, accounting for 20 percent of the injuries.

While taking precautions can help, injuries can still quickly occur. Small burns should be wrapped in a clean, cold towel to stop the burning process, and evaluated as to whether they need further medical attention. If you are unsure about the severity of the burn, call 911 or report to Mercy Convenient Care or the hospital ER immediately. As in all cases, prevention is the best overall protection to ensure a safe and happy Fourth of July, Martin noted.

Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, more than 200 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,600 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more about Mercy, visit