Fireworks are a fascinating and fun part of holiday celebrations throughout the country. Unfortunately, this popular tradition is also associated with injuries that are all too common among both adults and children. Each year, it is estimated that over 10,000 fireworks-related injuries occur in the United States and at least 40% of these injuries involve the arm, hand, and fingers.
Injuries from fireworks can range from burns, blast injuries, and not uncommonly amputations, difficult scarring and stiffness. The inherent unpredictability of fireworks are one reason for their danger. In addition, fireworks create a significant amount of heat. Even sparklers, often thought to be a simple and harmless firework for children, typically burn at greater than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The impact of injuries as a result of fireworks can be profound. Life-altering injuries can result from loss of function of the arm, hand, and fingers despite our best efforts at care. The emotional and psychological distress from these injuries is very impactful to patients in addition to the physical challenges that may arise.
As part of a community involved in the care of patients with firework injuries, several consensus positions from the ASSH have been developed. In summary, we recommend that fireworks should be limited to professional display and handled by professionals. However, we also understand that fireworks continue to be used by consumers each year. If you do choose to use fireworks, please keep in mind the danger that they can pose to yourself and those around you.
Several safety recommendations should be followed in order to decrease the chance of harmful injury. They include the following:
- Children should not be permitted to handle fireworks, even with supervision.
- Limit use of fireworks to outdoors. The unpredictable nature of fireworks only increases the chance of injury in an enclosed area.
- NEVER relight a firework that does not go off (a dud). Wait 20 minutes at least before carefully handling it and place in a bucket of water.
- Only light one firework at a time and have a single shooter for fireworks ignition.
- Do not use homemade fireworks, and read all proper warning labels. This means NEVER holding a firework that is not meant to be held.
Other general rules that should be followed include not mixing fireworks and alcohol use, having a hose and bucket ready and available to discard the firework after it has cooled, and wearing appropriate protective equipment, including protective eyewear.
As a hand surgery community, we understand the importance of holiday traditions and enjoyment amongst family and friends. Professional fireworks displays performed by trained individuals can be a great way to enjoy this tradition. If you choose to use fireworks, please keep some of the thoughts and advice listed above in mind so that everyone can enjoy and stay safe!
Dr. Mark Yuhas is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in the care of hand, wrist, and elbow injuries with Wellington Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine in Cincinnati, OH. He has special interest in public education regarding hand injury prevention and is a candidate member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.