June 24, 2002
Methodist Rehabilitation Center physician encourages July Fourth revelers to think first about safety
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Celebrating the fourth of July should be fun and exciting, but Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges people to remember that incorrect use of fireworks can turn a joyful birthday celebration into a dangerous event.
Dr. David Collipp, medical director of the rehab surgery program at Methodist Rehab, encourages children and adults to use extreme caution when handling fireworks and says children are most likely to be involved in fireworks-related injuries.
“Most fireworks can be relatively safe with proper and careful use,” said Dr. Collipp. “However, some fireworks are very dangerous and can result in deaths, loss of eyesight, severe burns or amputation.”
Children under age 15 account for 50 percent of firework-related injuries and most involve the use of firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers.
According to the pyrotechnic association, Americans have dramatically increased their use of fireworks in the last decade from 67.6 million pounds in 1990 to more than 132.9 million pounds in 1997.
Dr. Collipp warns parents to never allow children to light fireworks or try to re-light fireworks that have not fully ignited.
“Last year more than 11,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks,” said Lauren Fairburn, director of Think First, Methodist Rehab’s statewide safety and injury prevention program. “Most of the victims were less than 15 years old and were treated for burns.”
Fairburn recommends keeping a bucket of water handy in case of a fire and to read and follow all instructions and warnings on firework labels.
She recommends that all children have adult supervision and says there are no completely safe fireworks. “Sparklers, smoke bombs and poppers are suggested for young children because they are the most safe, but no firework is 100 percent safe,” she said.
Dr. Collipp’s tips for a safe celebration this Fourth of July include:
- Only buy fireworks from licensed retail outlets.
- Check with your local police department to determine if fireworks are legal in your area.
- Never shoot fireworks in windy conditions.
- Don't purchase or use unlabeled fireworks.
- Never attempt to make your own fireworks and do not purchase or use any kits that are advertised for making fireworks.
- Never mix alcohol and fireworks.
- Use fireworks outdoors in a safe area away from dry grass and buildings.
- Never extend any part of the body over a lit firework.
- Light one firework at a time and then walk back quickly.
- Never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
- Never point or throw fireworks at people or animals.
- Always make sure people are out of the way before lighting fireworks.
“The most effective way to reduce firework injuries is to focus on safety awareness and prevention,” said Fairburn. “We want to do all we can to prevent traumatic, often life-changing injuries.”
Methodist Rehab’s Think First program works to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on bicycle, automobile, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety and fire prevention. Think First speakers volunteer their time to encourage others to wear safety belts when driving, helmets when riding bicycles and motorcycles and to always think first about what they’re doing before they get into any potentially dangerous situation.
Lauren Fairburn is director of Methodist's Think First safety and injury prevention program.