Independence Day is nearly here and many families are already planning their Fourth of July celebrations. Will you head to the beach? Host a cookout? Take in a parade? There are lots of ways to celebrate the summer and the annual holiday.
And if your plans also include fireworks, have you thought about firework safety? Watching fireworks light up the sky or lighting up a sparkler is practically a holiday staple. But, even though your kiddos will want to handle their own fireworks or get closer to the bright lights, there are a few things to consider.
We caught up with the Director of the Paul and Carol David Foundation Burn Institute at Akron Children's Hospital, Dr. Anjay Khandewal, to get expert advice on how to keep kids safe around fireworks. From advising against holding fireworks directly in your hand to giving advice on how to treat a burn, he's got the information you need to have a safe and fun holiday.
Are sparklers safe for kids?
Sparklers may seem like a safe choice for kids—but experts say they're really not. "Many families believe sparklers are harmless and safe for young children to use," says Dr. Anjay Khandelwal. "However, they are the most common cause of injury from fireworks in children. What families may not realize is a sparkler can reach temperatures above 1,500 degrees, which can cause serious burns or ignite clothing."
The National Fire Protection Association says that sparklers account for more than one-quarter of emergency room firework-related visits.
They're not just dangerous when lit, either. Experts want parents to remember that once the flame goes out, the metal stick remains extremely hot.
How can we safely use fireworks?
If you're planning on using fireworks, experts say there are ways to protect yourself and your children.
Kids should never play with fireworks. Firecrackers, rockets and sparklers are just too dangerous. If you do give kids sparklers, then make sure they keep them outside and away from their face, clothing and hair.
Buy only legal fireworks with instructions for proper use. Legal fireworks have a label with the manufacturer's name and directions, whereas illegal ones are unlabeled. Illegal fireworks usually go by the names M-80, M100, blockbuster or quarterpounder.
Have proper safety measures in place. If you're setting off fireworks, wear eye protection and gloves. It's a good idea to have a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water on hand, too.
Don't hold fireworks in your hand while lighting. Wear eye protection, and don't carry fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.
Don't allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some of the fireworks may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash can.
What should I do if my child gets injured?
If your child is hurt while using fireworks, Dr. Khandelwal says it's important to take them to a doctor right away. "Some burns may not appear to be serious but can cause permanent scarring and functional impairment," he says.
He advises you to run cool, but not cold, water over the burn and to seek immediate medical attention.
"There are a couple things not to do," says Dr. Khandelwal. "Do not apply ice over a burn. Do not apply any home remedies until after consultation with a medical professional and do not delay seeking medical attention." Again, some burns may be more serious than you realize.
A version of this post was published June 28, 2021. It has been updated.