MedStar Health Prepares for Fireworks Season with Safety Tips and Warning

MedStar Health Prepares for Fireworks Season with Safety Tips and Warning

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Xray of a hand injury resulting from mishandling fireworks.

More than half of all fireworks injuries are to the hand and upper extremity.

BALTIMORE – As Independence Day approaches, MedStar Health urges everyone to prioritize safety when celebrating with fireworks. While fireworks are a popular part of the holiday’s festivities, they also bring significant risks. On average, 230 people visit emergency rooms daily in the weeks before, during and after July 4th, because of fireworks-related injuries. More than half of these injuries affect the hands and fingers.

The most common of these holiday-related injuries are caused by firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers, and other pyrotechnics. Even seemingly harmless sparklers, which are often handed over to children, can burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees—hot enough to melt metal!

"Fireworks can turn a celebration into a nightmare in the blink of an eye,’ said Curtis National Hand Center hand surgeon, Raymond Wittstadt, MD. “Unfortunately, the hand often bears the brunt of the damage. ranging from burns to the traumatic injuries and amputations. We can reattach fingers but only if the finger is intact and there’s somewhere to replant it. My advice? Your hands are irreplaceable. Leave fireworks shows to the experts."

Photo of a patient's hand after a finger was amputated, as a result of mishandling fireworks. Every year, surgeons at the Curtis National Hand Center begin treating severe hand and finger injuries even before the Fourth of July festivities kick off. Whether the fireworks are legal or not, they can cause traumatic injuries, leading to permanent damage to nerves and tendons, or even amputations. Such injuries often necessitate multiple complex and innovative surgeries to close open wounds, reattach digits or hands, and restore limb functionality.

The good news is firework injuries are preventable when taking the proper safety precautions. The Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Health would like to remind everyone of the following safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday.

General Fireworks Safety Tips:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Older children should only use fireworks under close adult supervision.
  • Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper. These are often made for professional displays and may pose additional dangers.
  • Ensure fireworks are legal in your area before purchasing or using them.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully ignited.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • Douse spent fireworks with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding them to prevent trash fires.

Safety Tips for Attending Public Fireworks Displays:

  • Obey safety barriers and listen to ushers.
  • Stay a minimum of 500 feet from the launching site.
  • Resist the temptation to pick up firework debris after the display. Debris may still be hot and could potentially explode.

For an interview with Dr. Ray Wittstadt, and more information on fireworks safety and injury prevention, make sure to attend the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Fireworks Safety press event, June 26th at 10 a.m. at the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Center, (2200 Scott Wheeler Dr, Marriottsville, MD 21104).