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The Best Way to Keep Kids Safe Around Fireworks

by Vannessa Rhoades 03 Jul 2023
The Best Way to Keep Kids Safe Around Fireworks

Fireworks have been a traditional part of American Independence Day celebrations and other holidays for decades. And while pyrotechnic displays are exciting, fun, and entertaining ways of celebrating, they can also pose a major safety risk for both children and adults. In fact, more than 3,000 children under the age of 15 are sent to the emergency room each year in the United States because of fireworks, according to SafeKids Worldwide. Fireworks can cause eye injuries, fractures, severe burns, fractures, traumatic injuries, and even death. This year, keep your holiday fun and safe by following these fireworks safety tips.

The Safest Way to Celebrate 

A professional, public fireworks display is going to be more breathtaking and safer than anything you can do in your own backyard. Watch them from a safe distance, at least 500 feet away from the launch site. This will also help safeguard your child's hearing. Fireworks and firecrackers can be really noisy – as loud as 150 decibels, far higher than the safe listening level of around 75–80 decibels. In close proximity, even one particularly loud explosion can enough induce some permanent hearing damage. Leave the lighting to the pros and just sit back and enjoy the show.

Follow the Law

Many jurisdictions do not permit any home fireworks. Check with your county, city, or local fire department to learn what the laws are in your specific area.

Beware of “Games”

Never allow children to play “games” with firecrackers, like holding them until the last moment, then throwing them. This can result in catastrophic injuries. So can playing with larger or illegal fireworks. Also, remember that if you run across any unexploded or "dud" fireworks that fell to the ground, they may still explode. Stay away from them and contact your local fire or police department immediately.

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Important Safety Advice for Handling Fireworks

All fireworks can cause severe injury and should be handled with the utmost caution, even those marked as “safe and sane.” If consumer fireworks are legal to buy where you live and you choose to use them, be sure to follow the following safety tips:

Prior to use

    • Ensure you purchase fireworks lawfully and keep them in a cool, dry location. (Legitimate fireworks display a label featuring the manufacturer's name and instructions.)
    • Select an open, flat outdoor space that is far from individuals, residences, and dry foliage.
    • Dampen the area with a garden hose prior to igniting the fireworks.
    • Educate children about the importance of never aiming or throwing fireworks at others, and keeping them away from their face, hair, and limbs.
    • Designate a responsible, sober adult to handle the task of lighting fireworks. Refrain from handling fireworks if you have consumed alcohol.
    • Take measures to safeguard your pets. Their hearing is highly sensitive, and they can become frightened and injured easily. Keep them securely indoors, away from potential harm.

While using fireworks

    • Ensure adult supervision at all times. Refrain from giving fireworks to young children.
    • Adhere to the instructions provided on the labels.
    • Wear protective eyewear to safeguard your eyes.
    • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose within reach for emergencies.
    • Ignite one firework at a time and promptly move away to a secure distance.
    • Never attempt to re-ignite a firework that fails to ignite completely. Avoid picking up or approaching such fireworks.
    • Once a firework has burned out, soak it thoroughly using a hose or bucket of water. Keep used, soaked fireworks outside in a covered fireproof container, far from any structures, bushes, or trees.

Using sparkers

Though often viewed as “safer,” sparklers can be incredibly dangerous. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, there were about 900 emergency department-treated injuries associated with sparklers in 2020. Sparklers can heat up to 1,200°F and account for one-third of the injuries to children under the age of five.

    • Under no circumstances should a child younger than 6 be given a sparkler.
    • Exercise close supervision over any child under the age of 12 who is handling a sparkler.
    • Avoid wearing loosely fitting clothing that can easily catch fire while using sparklers.
    • Prevent accidental foot burns by wearing closed-toe shoes.
    • For a safer alternative, try bright glow sticks, confetti poppers, or colored streamers in lieu of sparklers.
The Best Way to Keep Kids Safe Around Fireworks

If Someone Is Injured

Injuries from firecrackers require immediate medical attention. For an eye injury, avoid rubbing, touching, or flushing the child’s eye as this may result in further harm. Protect the injured eye by cutting out the bottom of an empty paper cup and placing it around the eye. Then head to the emergency room. For burns, take off any clothing covering the burned area, unless it is stuck to the skin. Allow cool (not cold) water to flow over the burn, and gently apply a gauze bandage. Avoid applying ointments, butter, or any other home remedies on the burn. If the burned area is extensive, appears infected (with symptoms such as swelling, warmth, increased redness, heightened pain, or pus), or affects the face, hands, neck, feet, joints, or genitals, seek immediate medical attention.

The Takeaway

Remember, the safest option is to not use home fireworks, even if they’re legal. Visit a public fireworks show instead, and keep your family safe while enjoying the fun. Consult with your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about how to safely enjoy fireworks displays. You can also find additional information by reading "Enjoy Fireworks the Safe Way – at a Public Display" from the National Institutes of Health, "Fireworks Safety" from the National Fire Protection Association, or by visiting the Fireworks Information Center from the Consumer Product Safety Center.

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