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Leave dangerous fireworks in the hands of professionals

July 01, 2016
Fireworks over Springfield

As the 4th of July approaches, many people are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with patriotic parades, picnics and colorful fireworks.

In Massachusetts, where all consumer fireworks are illegal, the safest way to enjoy them is at community events where professionals handle them.

“Those who illegally attempt to capture the excitement of these festivities at home are risking serious injuries, especially to children,” said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator, Safe Kids of Western Mass. headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital.

“Fireworks are extremely dangerous, especially in the hands of youngsters or even adults who are not professionally trained in their use. Fireworks involve explosions, accelerants and projectiles, and they can result in serious burns and other devastating injuries, lifelong disabilities, and even death. What is so upsetting is that all of this is completely preventable,” added Dr. Ronald Gross, chief, Trauma, Acute Care Surgery and Surgical Critical Care at Baystate Medical Center.

The numbers tell the story

According to a 2014 report of fireworks-related emergency department-treated injuries by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were an estimated 10,500 people treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. Sixty-seven percent of those fireworks-related injuries occurred in a one-month period between June 20, 2014 and July 20, 2014. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 35 percent of the estimated 2014 injuries, while children 5-9 years had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks injuries.

Dr. Gross noted that traumatic amputation of the fingers or hands is a common result of a fireworks-related injury. Other injuries usually involve the eyes or head and can sometimes result in blinding or even death. More than half of fireworks-related injuries involve burns, which can be one of the most painful injuries a child can encounter.

If for any reason a fireworks accident occurs, seek medical attention immediately, regardless of the severity of the injury. Do not rub or rinse out the eyes which can cause further damage. Pressure should be applied to control bleeding, but should be avoided on the area around the eye. Do not use any kind of aspirin or ibuprofen, which can cause blood thinning and potentially increase any bleeding that is present. Using ointments and medications are not recommended, as they can make the area around the eye slippery and interfere with the doctor’s examination.

What about the noise?

Some parents may question whether to bring their children, especially infants, to patriotic celebrations that include booming fireworks with their bright flashes of colorful explosives in the sky.

“The noise levels aren’t a major worry and should cause no harm to a little one’s ears, especially if you are far enough away from where they are being launched,” said Dr. Jerry Schreibstein of Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeons of Western New England, who is a member of the Baystate Medical Center medical staff.

But, while the noise levels may be acceptable, they can still be scary for some younger children, noted Baystate Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Patrick Brown.

“Some children with special needs, such as Williams Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder, can be especially bothered by loud noises and might be overwhelmed by fireworks,” he said.

For more information on Baystate Medical Center, visit baystatehealth.org/bmc, and for more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit baystatehealth.org/bch.