Happy 4th of July!

Sparkler fireworks
Who wouldn’t want to play with these?

Happy 4th of July!

In case there is any doubt, summer is most definitely here! Days are long, hot, and sticky. Normal bedtimes are shattered. Who wants to go to bed when there is still light outside to play  Most of us have settled into the more relaxed routine of summer and things aren’t so much GO, GO, GO! When we get to this part of summer, the 4th of July and fireworks are right around the corner.

4th of July is a time of celebration—celebration of the freedoms that we are lucky enough to have and often take for granted.  We celebrate friends and family, and if we’re lucky, celebration of an extra day off of work!

The Fun Begins…

I don’t know about the rest of you, buy my kids’ favorite part of July 4th is the fireworks. They start seeing those big tents pop up over town sometime in June and they start getting excited. Fireworks mean fun and excitement, loud pops, beautiful colors, and staying up way past bedtime. But along with all of that fun and excitement comes danger to rain on the parade. Each year, ER rooms fill up with firework related injuries.

The Good Old Days

Do you remember fireworks growing up? I remember cousins playing with bottle rockets. They were a bit older than me, but not by much… certainly no older than middle schoolers. They’d grab an empty glass soda bottle and pop one of those suckers in, light it up, and then run. Sometimes they’d aim at something to see if they could hit it, other times they’d just watch to see where it would go. Our parents weren’t out there, and I’d guess probably didn’t know what we were all getting into. It’s probably a small miracle that none of us were injured in the process.

The Scoop..

Each year, there are over 10,000 ER visits between mid June thru mid July attributed to fireworks-related injury. Crazy! And this is an underestimation of injuries.  Parents  often treat minor injuries at home, and many of the more significantly injured go to local urgent care centers or their pediatrician’s office. The group that is most likely affected?…. Teen and young adult males. Probably not shocking information to most.

Bottle rockets and roman candles are among the biggest offenders for injuries.  Once they are lit, their course can be extremely unpredictable. Once a bottle rocket is lit, you have absolutely no control over where it may land. It may fly away from you or you may be chased by it. If they do hit you, the damage can be irreversible.

Sparklers are also big offenders for ER visits around the 4th. We generally think of them as safe because nothing is shooting off anywhere. But they can reach up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.! 😮

The Irony of it All

We shoe our kids out of the kitchen and away from the stoves.  Childproofing supplies are in highest demand.  But around the 4th of July, all of our child-proofing goes out the window.

Do any of you remember the “toy guillotine” that is given to Dracula’s grandchild for his first birthday in Hotel Transylvania 2? (If you’ve not seen the movie, go watch it right away!)  I giggled at that scene, but really we’re not that far off the mark!

My First Guillotine

The Danger

A young child who grabs a lit sparkler can severely burn his/her hands.  If the sparkler pops and scares them, they may drop it on themselves also causing burns. Older children with some sparkler experience may feel very safe with sparklers and set themselves (and siblings) up for injury. Happily waving around their sticks or start trying to do “tricks” with sparklers leads to injury.

Cut down on the risk of fireworks injury

If you decide to have fireworks as part of your July 4th celebrations this year, there are things that you can do to minimize risk..

1. Consider attending a public fireworks display.

  • Many communities have absolutely beautiful fireworks displays planned to celebrate the 4th. They are designed by the professionals to not only look beautiful, but to be safe for observers. Generally, these are WAY more impressive than anything you could pull off at home. (The “good” fireworks are EXPENSIVE!) You may have the added hassle of finding parking and dealing with crowds, but you will spend less money and avoid the risk.

2. If you set off fireworks at home, set them off as far away from the viewing area as possible.

  • A responsible adult should be the one to light the fireworks and there should be another adult watching the kids to make sure no one is running around in a risky area. The ONLY thing the person lighting the fireworks should be worrying about is doing their part safely.

3. DO NOT allow your kids to light the fireworks.

  • No explanation necessary.  It’s dangerous and not worth the risk.

4. Do Not Leave your Children Unattended

  • If you decide to partake in the “sparkler experience” do NOT leave your children unattended. Make sure there is a safe distance between the kids so that any of those sparkling arm circles don’t accidently whack someone in the face.

5.  Don’t force the Issue

  • If mini-me is afraid and doesn’t want to hold a sparkler, don’t force the issue. Fear can be a wonderful self-protective mechanism. In this case, he may be showing more intelligence than we adults (haha). If you need more convincing, remember that scared children are more likely to drop a lit sparkler right on top of those cute little toes.

6.  They are still kids.  Don’t forget it.

  • If mini-me is excited and comfortable holding a sparkler, don’t assume that this means they will use good sense with them. Children do not come with great “self-protective” mechanisms.  Don’t hand out more responsibility than is appropriate.  How many times a day do we watch our otherwise seemingly intelligent children make less than stellar decisions in routine every day situations? They are certainly not immune to bad decisions now.

7. If all else fails, consider crafts.

  • Consider other “fireworks” related crafts and activities leading up to the big day.

How do each of you celebrate the 4th and stay safe? Feel free to share your experiences!

Author: Dr. Jenny Seawell

Dr. Jennifer Seawell is a board certified pediatrician currently practicing in Tennessee. She is married with 2 daughters aged 7 and 13.

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