With the Fourth of July weekend coming up, pediatricians with University of Louisville Physicians are urging parents to be aware of the dangers involved with children handling fireworks, while offering tips to enjoy them as well as alternatives for a safe and enjoyable holiday.
New research from the University of Louisville that was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 Meeting in Baltimore in May shows loosening U.S. laws that let people buy pyrotechnics at younger ages is tied to increased incidence and severity of fireworks-related burns in children.
As states relaxed laws related to fireworks sales during the past decade, emergency doctors saw an increase in both the number of fireworks-related injuries among children and the severity of those injuries.
“The increase in fireworks-related injuries and the severity of these injuries in children since 2006 are very concerning,” said Dr. Charles Woods Jr., one of the study’s authors and associate chair of pediatrics at the University of Louisville and UofL Physicians. “Parents and caregivers of children also should be aware of these increasingly serious injuries and the potential dangers involved in allowing young children to handle and play with fireworks.”
Dr. Heather Felton, medical director of the UofL Pediatrics Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre and an assistant professor at the UofL School of Medicine, said there are ways parents can protect their children from the dangers and still enjoy the festivities.
“First, igniting fireworks should be left to adults,” Dr. Felton said. “Adults are also at risk of having an accident, so any and all precautions should be taken.”
Adults should also be aware of local and state laws regarding fireworks before purchasing and setting off fireworks.
“If you’ve done this and are ready to start your celebration, children should be encouraged to watch the fireworks and not help,” Dr. Felton said.
Accidents can happen, and having them a safe distance away from where the fireworks are being lit is one way to avoid injury from any mishaps, she said.
The National Council on Fireworks Safety recommends that if fireworks are going to be used, they are used outdoors away from flammable materials, overhead obstructions, buildings or vehicles.
”It’s also a good idea to have a water source available in case of a fire,” Dr. Felton said.
To dispose of used fireworks, the council recommends wetting the fireworks, placing them in a metal trash can away from any building and waiting a day to dispose of the materials.
Also, Dr. Felton said that for parents and their children’s safety, they should read the cautionary labels on fireworks before igniting them.
If participating in your family’s fireworks display is a battle between parents and their children, Dr. Felton offers a few alternatives:
- If age appropriate, buy bubbles and let children enjoy seeing who can produce the most bubbles or who can create the biggest bubble.
- Sidewalk chalk. Ask children to use their creativity and draw a fireworks display.
- Glow sticks. If celebrating outdoors, give children glow sticks to wear when the sun goes down. (Read the safety labels on these as well and make sure the product is age appropriate.)
- Silly string or confetti. “This can be fun and colorful, and only a bit messy to clean up,” said Dr. Felton. You can find confetti poppers, which give your children the sights and the sounds of the Fourth of July.
- Attend a neighborhood or citywide celebration. Many cities, neighborhoods and clubs will have fireworks. Parents and children can enjoy the show without being close.
“Teaching your children responsible fireworks safety now will prepare them for later, and it helps everyone have a safe and enjoyable holiday,” Dr. Felton said.
Image provided by Wikimedia.