Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 3, 2012
The Fourth of July is a time for celebration in the United States (US), often synonymous with the tradition of fireworks displays. However, this celebratory day has become a dangerous one, with fireworks causing thousands of injuries in the US around this time each year. In 2010, about 1,900 people were seen at an emergency room for firework-related injuries in the 30 days surrounding Independence Day. At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, physicians note having seen multiple burns, amputations, and eye injuries over the years – ranging from minor burns to devastating disfiguring injuries, and even death.
“The combination of crowds of people, alcohol consumption, and often dark settings provide a hazardous mix, making fireworks use even more dangerous,” explains Dr. Robert Riviello, associate surgeon in the Division of Trauma, Burns and Surgical Critical Care at BWH. The basic message, says Dr. Riviello, is to enjoy the public display of fireworks, leaving the danger to professionals who are trained and knowledgeable.
All fireworks should be avoided. “Even sparklers, which are often given to children, are extremely dangerous,” said Dr. Riviello, noting that they can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. “It’s like giving your child a torch,” he explains.
If you do sustain a burn from a fireworks display, don’t underestimate the potential severity of the condition. There are three categories of burns:
- First degree burn: The mildest burn, it causes pain, reddening of the skin, and minor swelling.
- Second degree burn: Characterized by heightened pain, redness, swelling, and blistering of the skin.
- Third degree burn: The area feels numb and appears white, brown, and leathery or charred.
First degree burns should be treated by running cool water over the burn and applying aloe or burn cream. For second and third degree burns, seek medical attention immediately.
In addition to being dangerous, Dr. Riviello reminds people that fireworks are also illegal in many states, including Massachusetts. Turn to your local news providers to find out where and when fireworks displays for the public will be occurring.