Dr. Cynthia Paulis: Today is the Fourth of July -- the start of summer, no school, swimming, picnics and, best of all, fireworks. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year that most children's fireworks injuries occur.
I'm an emergency room physician, and some of the most tragic injuries I've witnessed occurred because children handled fireworks. Children should never be handling fireworks! According to the CDC, fireworks cause approximately 10,000 injuries nationwide each year -- most of which involve children under the age of 14. These injuries usually involve the hands, eyes, head, face and/or ears. The federal government has banned most of the dangerous fireworks that are sold publicly; in some states, the general public's use of fireworks has been banned altogether.
I've treated children who've lost eyes and fingers and who've suffered serious burns to the face -- all due to fireworks. Those sparklers that people feel are harmless actually cause a significant amount of burn injuries. More than one third of children under the age of 5 have been injured by sparklers. These sparklers can ignite clothing, and they also burn at 1,000 degrees F. Children are naturally curious and not as coordinated as adults, so as they handle these sparklers, they can injure themselves by getting too close to the sparks.
Here are some safety tips:
- First off, leave the fireworks to the professionals.
- If you or your child is injured by a firework, call 911 and get to the ER immediately.
- For eye injuries, do not put any pressure on the eye; just cover it loosely and get to an ER right away. Do not put any drops in the eye, don't rinse it and don't add any ointment. Above all, do not put Visine in the eye!
- If you are burned by a firework, irrigate the skin with cool water and cover with a clean, dry towel or gauze until you can get to an ER.
- If you should lose a finger, find the missing digit, wrap it in clean gauze, place it in a Ziploc bag and then place that bag in another Ziploc bag that is filled with ice. (Do not let the body part touch the ice directly!) Then get to the ER immediately.
July 4 is a great time of the year. Just be smart and safe when you celebrate our nation's 224th birthday, and don't let your kids handle fireworks under any circumstances!