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Fireworks spark a need for awareness

The Shawnee News-Star

What's more fun than fireworks on the Fourth of July? It's an annual tradition at many homes this time of year. But with the "oohs" and the "aahs" also comes an increased risk of injury for you and your children.

Emergency rooms gear up for more visits especially around Fourth of July celebrations. In fact, next to flu season, the summer months are the second busiest time of the year. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries last year.

"Most injuries happen with sparklers, firecrackers and bottle rockets," says A.C. Husen, Emergency Room Medical Director, SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee. "If you at least are aware of this, you can exercise a bit more caution around them."

Sparklers burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – which is hot enough to melt gold! That's why they are recommended only for children age 12 and older, and even then with adult supervision.

"We see burns, but they're usually superficial; however, they can be more serious due to the intense heat of sparklers,” says Husen.  “A lot of the burns happen after the sparkers is done burning and appear to be out. I recommend dousing spent sparklers in a bucket of water to avoid burns."

While sparklers do result in burns, the serious injuries to the eyes and hands come from devices that go up in the air or explode. However, with experience and proper precautions, fireworks can be used in a safe way.

"Wear eye protection, and make sure not to re-light fireworks that appear to be duds," says Husen. "Also, make sure when lighting the firework that your head is not over it. Finally, when you are lighting fireworks, do not drink alcohol."

In addition to a spike in injuries, Fourth of July is the busiest day of the year for fires. In 2018, according to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused an estimated 19,500 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and 17,100 outside and other fires. Most commonly these fires involve brush or grass, but dumpsters, forests, even field crops are also heavily hit.

If you aren't sure how to use fireworks properly, leave this work to the pros. Not only is it safer, but you'll also get to fully relax and enjoy the show.