WASHINGTON, DC — The nation’s emergency physicians urge those celebrating Independence Day to exercise good judgement and to be mindful of potential dangers, especially from accidents with fireworks.
“Whether you are grilling, camping, spending the day in or near the water, or just relaxing with family and friends, a few simple safety tips can keep the celebration going and keep you out of the emergency department,” said Paul Kivela, MD, MBA, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
More than 11,100 people went to the emergency room with injuries from fireworks in 2016, according to the most recent data available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 31 percent of the estimated 2016 injuries. And, 69 percent of the emergency department-treated injuries were burns.
Emergency physicians strongly encourage people to leave fireworks to the professionals. If fireworks are legal in your area, ACEP strongly urges you to avoid using them near residential areas. Children should never play with fireworks or sparklers and older children should always be supervised. If you are drinking alcohol, please do not handle fireworks or supervise others who may rely on you if an emergency occurs. Some additional firework safety tips:
• Avoid purchasing or using illegal fireworks. Do not attempt to make your own.
• Read warning labels and follow all instructions. Do not use fireworks in any way other than suggested on the label.
• Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher on hand.
• Light fireworks one at a time.
• Dispose of all fireworks properly. Soak them all in water before throwing them away.
• Do not light fireworks indoors or near other objects.
• Avoid burns or other accidents by not standing or crouching over fireworks when trying to light the fuse. Immediately back up to a safe distance after you light it.
• Do not point or throw fireworks at another person.
• Do not re-light a malfunctioning “dud” or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
• Dress appropriately. Loose fitting clothes could be a fire hazard or become tangled or caught.
• Setting off fireworks in glass or metal containers can create fragments that can cause severe injury.
For those celebrating outside, it is important to monitor your fluid intake, especially in warm weather. Limit the likelihood of dehydration by drinking plenty of water. Young children and senior citizens are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness, and risks increase with exertion. Apply (and re-apply) sunscreen when participating in outdoor activities.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to avoidable accidents and could put your friends and loved ones at risk, too. Don’t drink and drive! Arrange for a designated driver in advance whenever possible. It is important to remain aware that alcohol accelerates the effects of heat-related illness.
Nobody wants a stomach issue to ruin a picnic or to cut the celebration short. Refrigerate any food that needs to be kept cold. Food poisoning can occur in as little as one hour when temperatures are over 90 F. Foods that need to be kept cold should be placed in a cooler or on ice to maintain a temperature of 40 F. If you or a loved one has a food allergy, it may be appropriate to carry medication and be prepared with an action plan in the event of an allergic reaction.
Heading to the pool, lake or other water activity? For swimmers, always try to have a lifeguard or chaperone keeping an eye on children. For boaters, review safe boating laws and procedures, and make sure you have a current license and updated safety equipment and life jackets on board before heading out.
If you plan to cook on a grill, whether you are a novice or an expert, be mindful of risks involved with open fires or gas lines. Keep the family football games or other recreational activities a reasonable distance away from the flames.
Hikers and campers, protect yourself with appropriate gear and insect repellent. If you are hiking in a remote location, alert family or friends of your departure time and approximate route.
Visit www.emergencycareforyou.org for more health and safety tips.
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.