The fourth of July is almost here, which means barbecues, pool parties, and fireworks. Unfortunately, fireworks can be incredibly dangerous, especially when it comes to kids. Jaime Verberne, Child Safety Expert at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, has some tips to help keep your whole family– from babies to parents to pets– safe this Independence Day.
1. What are the most common kinds of fireworks that kids get hurt using?
Many families think that sparklers are simple fireworks that wouldn’t cause major injuries, however we see differently. More than 3,000 children under the age of 15 visit emergency rooms every year in the U.S. because of fireworks and one-third of those injuries are caused by sparklers for children under 5. Sparklers can get very hot– they can heat up to 1200 degrees and I have even seen reports of 2000 degrees, which can melt glass and some metals. It is as hot as a blow torch. So it is really important for little ones because their arms are so short that we keep sparklers away from them.
Children ages 5 to 9 are at the highest risk for fireworks-related injuries, and firecrackers and bottle rockets cause the most injuries to children in this age group. Children ages 4 and under are at the highest risk for sparkler-related injuries.
Instead, give children something like a glow stick that they can use instead. So it is still something that lights up that is fun, but wont hurt a smaller child. Sparklers can cause third degree burns and injuries to the eyes so they can be quite dangerous.
We really believe that children should never handle fireworks. It is best to be left to the professionals. However we know that some families do want to incorporate fireworks into their celebrations so we prefer that adults handle the fireworks and keep the children away from them.
2. Do you have any safety tips for adults who are handling fireworks?
If you do plan to use fireworks for the Fourth of July, we want to first make sure that families are checking what fireworks are legal in their state. You can go onto the Consumer Products Safety Administration website to see what is allowed in each state– especially since so many families do travel out of state. It is important to be knowlegable on that.
If you do decide to do fireworks, do not wear loose clothing and light only one firework at a time. If there is a dud firework, don’t go back over and try to relight it. Don’t stand over a firework because they can be unpredictable. Make sure to keep a bucket of water, a hose and a fire extinguisher close by so that if something does go wrong you can put the fire out.
And I think the most important thing is to talk to children about the dangers of fireworks and why they should handle them. They need to know what to do in case hair catches on fire or clothing catches on fire. Does your child know that if they were to catch on fire, they should stop, drop and roll and not run? That is very important.
3. A lot of times it seems that pets get upset during fireworks which can cause kids to get hurt as well. Any tips for pet owners?
I would recommend putting pets inside in a bedroom with a TV or music on with the doors shut. The noise and flashing of fireworks can bring anxiety out in a dog and make the dog act out or want to bite because they are scared. So it is important to think of our fur babies as well. Put them inside and have noise on for them to be a distraction.
4. What are the biggest injuries kids can get with fireworks?
Most of the injuries that we see with the fireworks is to the hands and fingers. We do see many injuries to the eyes, the head, the face and the ears. Injuries can happen anywhere on the body but we see more injuries to the hands and fingers.
5. Is there anything else you would like to add about fireworks?
Again, leave the fireworks up to the professionals. If families want to incorporate fireworks into your plans, please thing twice and make sure that you are being as safe as possible.
For more information on firework safety, click here.