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Fireworks Safety Or How Not To Blow Yourself Up

I have a love, hate relationship with the 4th of July. I love what the holiday celebrates in terms of our Nation’s freedom. I love the parties, the BBQs, swimming, and big city firework shows. I hate the home fireworks. It probably stems from years covering in the Emergency Room and taking care of tragic firework “accidents.” But the whole experience causes me serious anxiety. As parents, we are so careful to keep kids away from matches all year, then one day a year we give them lighters and let them ignite unpredictable explosives two inches from their faces, or hold sticks with sparking flames of fire that can reach over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. It makes no logical sense.

The safest approach is to watch professionals

The official stance by the American Academy of Pediatrics is that people should not engage in home fireworks at all. The position states that there is NO safe way to use backyard fireworks. In fact, most accidents happen under the close supervision of an adult. When pyrotechnics go wrong, it is usually in an instant and too quick to allow the adult to respond. Consequently, the AAP recommends attending a community display run by professionals instead. I know that sounds harsh, but don’t kill the messenger. (That said, the Wonnacotts may or may not be planning on lighting off a few fireworks tonight. Don’t tell the AAP.)

The two worst offenders: Bottle rockets and sparklers

Bottle rockets are little fireworks/rockets that ignite from a stick (the name comes from the practice of standing them in a bottle to keep upright when lighting). Bottle rockets often fly unpredictably and, consequently, cause a lot of damage. They account for 60-70% of all serious firework-related eye injuries (according to the United States Eye Injury Registry).

Sparklers are a common burn offender. They account for 10% of all firework related injuries and 2/3 of those injuries are in kids younger than 5 years. (It makes sense, the 2 year-old doesn’t know to let go when the flame gets too close to his or her fingers.) So maybe we could stop giving our toddlers sticks on fire? (I’m honestly buying some cute glow stick flowers for my toddler).

If you’re going to set them off at home anyhow…

  1. Don’t let kids light fireworks.
  2. Light fireworks one at a time.
  3. Never attempt to relight “duds” or something that failed to go off.
  4. Have a bucket of water or hose nearby to douse duds or previously lit fireworks (to prevent fire).
  5. Keep kids in a “safety zone” (behind a rope, fence, etc.) where they must stay when fireworks are going off to prevent them from getting too close.

At a professional show

  1. If your child is young, you may need to prep them ahead of time for what will happen. The explosions can be loud and that can be scary for a young child. (I have used those cheap little foam ear plugs many times to help my little ones who complained that it was too loud).
  2. Stay in the designated viewing areas (they are created for safety reasons).
  3. If it’s your child’s first firework show, have an early exit strategy. If your child is truly fearful, abandon ship. It isn’t worth it.

By the way, you don’t need to stress too much about the fireworks causing permanent damage to your baby’s ears. While loud, one 15 minute show isn’t likely to be enough to cause too many problems.

Have a fun and safe 4th of July!