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Explosive Situation: Don't Let a Fireworks Accident Ruin Your Summer

While fireworks can seem like a fun way to celebrate the summer, they're dangerous in amateur hands. In New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Massachusetts, possession of fireworks also is illegal.

Whether they are legal or not doesn't stop scores of people from setting them off. Nationwide, hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks-related injuries in 2012, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Many fireworks injuries also go unreported.

"Children ages 5 to 19 are the highest risk age group for fireworks-related injuries," said Jenice Forde-Baker, MD, assistant director of Emergency Medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. "Unfortunately, these injuries can be prevented."

Dr. Forde-Baker said that fireworks injuries typically involve burns, lacerations and abrasions to the face, arms and hands. Some injuries can result in permanent blindness, severe scarring dismemberment, or in some cases, death.

"Legal or not, fireworks are too risky for amateurs," said Dr. Forde-Baker. "They are only suitable for use by trained professionals. When used by amateurs, fireworks can injure not only the user, but bystanders and surrounding property and structures."

Consumer fireworks include sparklers and firecrackers. A sparkler, considered by many to be harmless, can burn at a temperature of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to cause a third-degree burn. Sparklers account for 10 percent of fireworks-related injuries.

Fortunately, there are safer alternatives to using fireworks on the Fourth of July and other holidays, said Dr. Forde-Baker. "Public fireworks displays, conducted by trained professionals, are the safest alternative because they are established under controlled settings and regulations."

"Fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable, especially in the hands of amateurs," added Dr. Forde-Baker. "The few seconds of pleasure fireworks bring are not worth the risk permanent injury or even death."

Last reviewed: July 2014

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Emergency physicians and nurse practitioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center publish widely and present nationally. To learn more about our outstanding Emergency Departments at Our Lady of Lourdes, Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County and Deborah Heart and Lung Center, visit www.lourdesnet.org.
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