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10 fireworks safety tips from an emergency medicine physician

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Warm weather, barbecues and celebrating our independence is all a part of summer. One of the best parts of the 4th of July is watching the sky light up with a beautiful array of colors, sparkles and shapes. Even though the firework displays are stunning, they can be very dangerous if proper precautions are not taken.

"Fireworks are dangerous,” warns Dr. Jason Kegg, emergency medicine physician at SIU School of Medicine. While burns can be serious, they’re not the only reason to fear fireworks. “We see blast injuries in children as well as adults, and sometimes, it ends up with the loss of eyes, fingers, toes or even a hand. There’s no such thing as a safe firework.”

It’s best to leave fireworks to the professionals who are trained to use them. If you choose to put on your own fireworks show, make sure to follow these 10 safety tips:

  1. Kids should never play with fireworks, even sparklers. “While sparklers are legal in Illinois and seemingly innocent, they can actually cause some high-temperature type of injuries,” Dr. Kegg warns. Sparklers can reach up to 1,800°F, which is hot enough to melt gold. “If you choose to let kids play with sparklers, make sure it is outdoors and that they understand to keep them away from the face, clothing and hair.
  2. If you choose to buy fireworks to use in another state where they might be legal, only buy fireworks with a label that has the manufacturer’s name and directions. Illegal fireworks are often unlabeled.
  3. Always use fireworks outdoors and have a bucket of water or hose nearby.
  4. Point fireworks away from homes, other people, brush, leaves and flammable substances.
  5. Never attempt to make your own fireworks.
  6. Never hold fireworks or have body parts over them while lighting and wear eye protection.
  7. Light one firework at a time (not in glass or metal containers). NEVER relight a dud.
  8. Never let kids pick up fireworks after an event. The fireworks may still be ignited and could explode.
  9. Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing in the trash.
  10. Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed by fireworks. To reduce risk of pet injury, secure them indoors.

In the event of fire or injury, call 911. Do not rub or try to treat an eye injury, as it could make the injury worse. In the event of a burn, take the clothes off and run cool (not cold) water over the burn. Do not use ice and seek medical attention immediately.

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