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Celebrate Fourth of July Safely

Jul 2, 2021

By Rowan Michael, M.D., hand and wrist surgeon at Premier

Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate our independence with friends and family. For many of us, those celebrations include cookouts and fireworks. While fireworks displays are beautiful, it is also important to remember that they can cause serious harm if not handled properly. Fireworks related injuries are responsible for over 12,000 ER visits each year, most of which occur around the fourth of July. fingers, hands and face are most involved, and deserve special precautions when dealing with fireworks and open flames.

Fireworks injuries to the hand are particularly difficult to treat, as they can cause significant skin loss, tissue damage and burns. Often, they cannot be reconstructed, resulting in permanent deformity or amputation. Several prominent athletes, including NFL players Jason Pierre-Paul and C.J. Wilson, have sustained serious fireworks injuries resulting in loss of digits. Additionally, several people die each year from fireworks injuries.

The safest option for enjoying fireworks is to attend a professional display and keep your distance. The American Society for Hand Surgery recommends staying at least 500 feet away from launch sites. Additionally, never pick up firework debris or fireworks that did not light completely. These can be extremely hot and cause serious burns even hours later. Even sparklers, often considered relatively safe, burn at temperatures around 2000 degrees F, and can cause serious burns if handled improperly.

Those who plan to set up their own displays should take additional safety measures. First, check your state and local rules regarding personal fireworks use. Never place any portion of your body directly in line with the fuse when lighting a firework. As soon as the fuse is lit, back up a safe distance and avoid approaching the launch site. Finally, always keep a water source close by to completely douse fireworks before discarding them. We wish you a safe and happy July 4th celebration as you kick off the summer.