By Mercy's Courtney Landsberger
The New Year is nearly upon us. While it may be fun to celebrate a new start with fireworks, think twice before you light the match. On average, about a dozen people die each year, and more than 10,000 are rushed to the emergency room, with injuries caused by fireworks.
“Some of the worst injuries I’ve seen are in children,” said Mercy’s Dr. Sylvia Gray, who specializes in hand surgery. “Even when kids are being supervised, you have to remember they’re handling explosives. Even sparklers can cause injuries.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 40 percent of all fireworks injuries are from small devices, like sparklers. They can easily reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees, enough to cause serious burns if used incorrectly. But Dr. Gray says most of the injuries she sees are from bottle rockets and artillery shells.
“Almost every major fireworks injury results in the loss of at least one finger. The majority of these injuries are very devastating. No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them. People think it’s OK to hold fireworks while they light them, whether they have a long cord or not, and often those explode in their hands.”
One night of celebration can affect someone for the rest of their life.
“People usually hold fireworks in their dominant hand, and if you lose some of your fingers, you no longer have that hand to do anything,” Dr. Gray said. “You have to have multiple surgeries to get any function from what you have left, so for the rest of your life you have to adapt to either being one-handed or figure out how to do things very differently.”
That includes small things like brushing your teeth, or even writing your name.
If you plan to celebrate the holidays with fireworks, here are some reminders to keep loved ones safe:
- Never light fireworks in your hand.
- Always supervise children.
- Stand at least 500 feet away from a fireworks display.
- Never try to relight, or pick up a “dud,” and always douse it in water before handling.