Doctors Brace for Accidents as 43% of Americans Buy Fireworks

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Key Takeaways

  • Almost half of Americans plan to buy fireworks for the Fourth of July, an Orlando Health survey shows.
  • Some respondents cite cancellation of public displays as the reason for their purchase.
  • Firework-related injuries can range from burns and burst eardrums to lacerations and amputations.

While many planned Fourth of July firework demonstrations across the country may be cancelled due to COVID-19, doctors are still bracing for a surge in firework-related injuries this holiday weekend.

A June survey commissioned by Orlando Health, a Florida healthcare system, shows that 43% of Americans plan to buy fireworks for the Fourth of July this year. Approximately 7% of the 2,058 respondents reported they don’t usually buy fireworks, but cited cancellations and feeling uncomfortable attending displays as reasons for doing so.

“You have more inherent risk of people getting bigger and better fireworks than they usually acquire for themselves because there’s not going to be large aerial shows,” said Elizabeth Gibson, MD, an orthopedic surgery resident at Orlando Health says in a press release. “They may try to take it upon themselves to have the best fireworks show in the neighborhood or the best fireworks show that their family has ever put on and a lot of people don’t realize just how dangerous these fireworks are until they sustain a life-changing injury.”

Neighborhood firework shows haven’t been limited to Fourth of July-related celebrations. In New York City, for example, the city received 849 firework-related complaints during the first two weeks of June, compared to 21 during that time period last year.

Types of Injuries 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2019, U.S. hospital emergency departments treated 10,000 firework-related injuries, 7,300 of which occurred between June 21 and July 21. 

Rachel Faber, MD, an orthopedic surgery resident at Orlando Health, explains how varied these injuries can be.

“We see some injuries that are fairly minimal, like a small burn anywhere on the body, and some as serious as losing a hand,” she tells Get Meds Info. “A lot of times, injuries to the hands really necessitate further debridement and possibly amputation in the operating room. In 2018, our chief hand surgeon was operating for approximately 38 hours straight due to the sheer number of [firework] injuries that came in in a short amount of time.”

Faber lists several types of firework-related injuries Orlando Health has treated:

Faber emphasizes it’s not just people lighting the fireworks who are affected. 

“We see pretty even amounts of injuries in people setting [fireworks] off and in others nearby,” she says. “We definitely see more devastation with injuries to the person who is actually setting off the firework or intending to set off the firework, but that is not to say that these blasts are isolated to only one person.”

Safety Tips

In spite of the risks, Faber knows people will be using fireworks at home.

“In areas where it is legal to use fireworks or even sparklers, the best tip we can give is to be smart and make sure you are using the firework according to the safety instructions on its label,” Faber says. 

Orlando Health offers the following guidelines for using fireworks as safely as possible:

  • Make sure nobody is in your immediate vicinity when you light a firework.
  • Do not point fireworks in the direction of people or flammable objects.
  • Never hold a firework in your hand after it’s been lit.
  • If a firework fails to go off, douse it with water. 
  • Keep a bucket of water or hose nearby.
  • Make sure there is proper adult supervision for kids who may be using sparklers. Children should not light fireworks. 
  • Do not use drugs or alcohol while lighting fireworks.  

What This Means For You

If you plan to use fireworks, take every safety precaution you can. Remember, people in your vicinity are at almost an equal risk of injury as you are.

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