Enjoy July 4th, But Play It Safe – Especially with Fireworks

The Fourth of July is loud, proud and colorful, but the fireworks that give the holiday its sparkle often land revelers in the hospital, says a local emergency medicine expert.

“This is really one of everybody’s favorite holidays, but with it comes risk,” said Dr. Michael Guttenberg, director of emergency medicine at Forest Hills Hospital.

“Because it’s an outdoors holiday, there are people who are at risk for sports injuries. There are people who drink excessively throughout the day, and as the sun falls the fireworks come out. This is an extremely high-risk time for children, especially using sparklers and other fireworks that people think are benign.”

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, those innocent-looking sparklers can heat up to about 2,000 degrees, which is hot enough to melt some metals.

Firework-related injuries tend to run the gamut, says  Dr. Guttenberg, from superficial burns to devastating ones, lacerations, bruises and soft tissue damage, eye injuries, complaints of hearing loss, as well as perforated ear drums.

While males in their teens and 20s account for many of the injured who show up in emergency departments  during the holiday, Dr. Guttenberg says that no demographic is unrepresented when it comes to fireworks gone awry.

“Typically, young males are greater risk takers, but everybody is at risk for injury, especially if fireworks go wrong and there are a lot of children and adults standing around watching.”

So how can you enjoy the Fourth and avoid injuries?

“The safest thing to do is distance and shielding from the fireworks,” said Dr. Guttenberg.


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