Firework Safety – Gregory L. Skuta, MD

Firework Safety – Gregory L. Skuta, MD

July 3, 2012

Holiday Often Brings Explosion of Injuries

Doctors warn thousands injured every year in days surrounding July 4th holiday

As emergency rooms statewide brace for the annual influx of injuries the July 4th holiday brings, experts at OU Medicine urge Oklahoma families to take steps to stay safe.

Each year, thousands of Americans end up in hospital emergency departments with burns and other fireworks-related injuries. New numbers from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission this week show that 9600 people were injured last year and four were killed by fireworks.

“Fireworks are not toys and should only be handled by trained professionals,” said Ryan Keller , MD, an emergency room physician with Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center. “The damage that can be done by firecrackers and other exploding fireworks can be extreme. Even sparklers, which are often placed in the hands of even very young children during July 4th celebrations, can cause serious and severe injury. Sparklers burn at temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – That’s hot enough to melt metal.”

Fireworks are involved in thousands of injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms across the nation each year. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that the vast majority of these occur in the 30 days surrounding the Fourth of July holiday. Eight out of every 100 injuries required hospitalization or transfer to a burn center.

“Unfortunately, I think too many people have become somewhat lackadaisical about fireworks. They’ve seen them so much. Perhaps, they even grew up in a family where setting off fireworks is an annual tradition. So many people really think they are safe, but we see the tragic results when things go horribly wrong,” said OU Medical Center Trauma One surgeon Jason Lees, M.D.

About half of all injuries are to children and teenagers, especially males between the ages of 15 and 19 with whom alcohol use is often a factor.

Burns are the most common injury to all parts of the body except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies in the eyes occur more frequently.

About 1,300 people injure their eyes each year because of accidents involving fireworks. One-fourth of those injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

“Eye injuries from fireworks can include cuts, burns, abrasions, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball and complete blindness,” said ophthalmologist Gregory Skuta, M.D., president and CEO of the Dean McGee Eye Institute. “This damage can become permanent, so it’s important to seek immediate medical help if you experience an eye injury.”

To help keep the July 4th celebration fun and safe, the experts at OU Medicine offer these additional tips:

  • Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
  • View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
  • Respect barriers that allow pyrotechnicians to do their job safely.
  • If you find unexploded fireworks, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.

OU Medicine has a wealth of information for parents on preventing fireworks and other summertime injuries on its website. To learn more, visit

Additional Fireworks Injury Stats

Of all fireworks-related injuries in 2011, 68 percent were to males and 32 percent were to females.

The parts of the body most often injured are:

  • hands and fingers (46%)
  • head, face, and ears (17%)
  • eyes (17%)
  • legs (11%)

 A look at injuries by fireworks type in 2011 reveals the following percentage by fireworks type:

  • 17% Sparklers
  • 14% Reloadable Shells
  • 13% Firecrackers
  • 7% Roman Candles
  • 6% Bottle Rockets
  • 6% Novelties

Source: US. Consumer Products Safety Commission 2011 Annual Fireworks Report

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