June 30, 2011

Vanderbilt Doctors Urge Fireworks Safety

It's the time of year when fireworks tents are popping up across the state, putting these recreational and frequently dangerous explosives into the hands of everyday citizens. While nothing says "Fourth of July" quite like fireworks, doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center urge caution and suggest always leaving these displays to the experts.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates more than 9,000 patients are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the country each year due to firework-related injuries – mostly burns, although physicians at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute have seen numerous eye injuries from bottle rockets.

“This is a very busy time of the year for firework injuries,” said Stephen Kim, M.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “These kinds of injuries are tragic, especially because they are preventable.

 “If someone is going to use fireworks, then wearing safety glasses is a must,” said Kim. “The risks are just too high. Proper precautions need to be taken when handling fireworks.”

Kim recalls a local teenager he treated in the emergency department at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt . An errant bottle rocket left the patient permanently blind in one eye.

“It’s truly devastating,” said Kim. “Accidents happen in a matter of seconds. But these lives are changed forever.”

In addition to eye injuries, Jeff Guy, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center, said Vanderbilt saw nearly 30 patients last year alone for burns due to firework injuries.

“Fireworks and sparklers are explosives that burn at several thousand degrees and are certainly not playthings under any circumstances,” Guy said.

Fireworks Safety Tips

While it is best to leave fireworks to the professionals, if you plan to handle fireworks at your celebration, follow these precautions and set some rules in advance.

· Always read and follow all warnings and label instructions.
· Never allow children to play with or light fireworks. ***Many assume sparklers are safer for children, but they burn very hot and can easily burn clothing. The ends of sparklers burn at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third degree burns.
· The adult lighting the fireworks should always wear eye protection. No one should ever have any part of the body over the fireworks.
· Use fireworks outdoors only.
· Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
· Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).
· Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house. Also keep away from dry leaves and other flammable materials.
· Light only one firework at a time.
· Never throw or point fireworks at other people or animals.
· Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
· Never re-light a dud firework. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
· Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and then putting them in the trash can.