Have an Injury-Free Fourth!

Considered the official kickoff to summer, the Fourth of July is a fun-filled celebration commemorated with outdoor barbeques and festivities.  Unfortunately, too many find themselves in the emergency room over this holiday weekend as a result of firework-related accidents.

While unofficially those at highest risk for firework injuries are adolescent boys, the adult male population are a close second in the highest risk group – according to reports of ER physicians and orthopedic hand specialists….

And it is estimated that over 40 percent of firework injuries occur to the hand, wrist and elbow.

Injuries most commonly occur when an ignited firework seemingly fails to go off, though explodes when handled.  Other injuries occur as a result of the extreme heat many fireworks omit.  Even the unassuming “sparkler” can heat to over 2000 degrees, capable of causing 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

The fireworks most implicated in causing injury include small firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers, because they are assumed to be less dangerous.  Individuals mistakenly use less caution when handling these types of fireworks.

Some of the most common hand and upper extremity traumatic injuries resulting from firework-related accidents include:

  • Burns
  • Contusions and lacerations
  • Damage to bones, muscle, ligaments and nerves 

Medical Attention for a Traumatic Firework Injury

It is important to seek immediate attention for a traumatic firework injury, to avoid permanent damage to the hand and wrist.

The hand alone contains approximately 50 nerves, with 34 muscles moving the fingers and thumb, and over 120 known ligaments, 30 major joints, 30 bones and a myriad of connective tendons involved in carrying out our everyday activities.

Long-term hand function is dependent on not only immediate care but proper follow up.  If such injuries are not adequately addressed, permanent nerve and tendon damage can impair hand feeling and movement. And the early onset of osteoarthritis from post-traumatic bone and joint damage can further hinder hand function.

Reducing Risks of Traumatic Firework-Related Injury

While many of the tips for reducing risk of hand injury from fireworks seem common sense, they can be overlooked during the excitement.  They include:

  • Ignite all fireworks with extended lighters.
  • Remain a safe distance from ignited fireworks.
  • Allow sufficient time for fireworks to go off / explode before approaching (and handle previously ignited fireworks with an extended apparatus such as BBQ tongs).
  • Supervise young children holding sparklers, advise teens of the heat hazard of these and other small, seemingly harmless fireworks.
  • Protective glasses and gloves can also reduce risks.

 Have a happy and safe Fourth of the July!