Firework Hand Safety
It’s almost the 4th of July, with means barbeques and picnics with family and friends. It also signals the start of the hand surgeon’s busy season, due to seasonal firework celebrations.
While you may have used fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July for years, it only takes a second for a mishandled firework to cause a life-changing injury. Each year, over 15,000 fireworks-related injuries occur in the United States, with more than 60% occurring during the weeks before and after the 4th of July weekend.
With many public fireworks displays being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people chose to celebrate with their own fireworks. This led to a large increase in the number of severe fireworks-related injuries in 2020 and 2021. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, injuries went up nearly across the board:
In 2020, nearly double the amount of people were admitted to a hospital due to severe fireworks injuries compared to 2019.
Young adults ages 20-24 saw the biggest spike in visits to the hospital emergency room for fireworks-related injuries, with nearly three times the number of cases compared to 2019.
Firecrackers continued to be the biggest source of ER-treated fireworks injuries (1,600), followed by sparklers (900).
Over 30% of all firework-related injuries involve the arm, hand, or fingers. Unsafe handling and use of fireworks can have severe consequences:
Burns, which may result in extensive scarring
Loss of fingers
Amputation of the hand
Surgery and/or hospitalization
The impact of firework injuries can be life-altering. “Fireworks should be taken very seriously, regardless of how safe you feel they are,” says Dr. Elaine Ahillen, an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in upper extremity conditions and injuries here at Arthritis & Sports. “I’ve unfortunately seen home firework injuries land people in the ICU.”
Many who suffer from firework injuries can end up with partial or complete loss of function of the arm, hand, and/or fingers. “Even smaller injuries can be very painful and take months to recover from,” says Dr. Ahillen. In addition to the physical challenges that these patients face, a significant number also suffer from emotional and psychological distress after these injuries.
“Even smaller injuries can be very painful and take months to recover from." - Dr. Elaine Ahillen, upper extremity specialist
Even the most innocent-looking fireworks displays can cause substantial harm. Sparklers, which many parents consider safe, burn at around 2,000°F (hotter than a blowtorch!) and can quickly cause serious injuries. According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries.
We understand that fireworks are a fun part of many family traditions, but with them come serious risks and a long history of avoidable, irreversible injuries – especially to kids. If you choose to use fireworks this year, Dr. Ahillen encourages you to follow these safety tips:
Never allow children to handle, play with, or shoot off fireworks
Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear eye protection
Do not hold lighted fireworks in your hands
Never point or throw fireworks at another person, including sparklers
You should never stand over a firework while it is ignited
Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks
Soak any used, malfunctioning, or unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
If you seriously injure yourself while using fireworks, visit the emergency room immediately. For non-life-threatening injuries, our hand surgeon can treat a variety of injuries to the fingers, hand, wrist, and arm. We invite you to call us at 703.444.5000 or click here to request an appointment with one of the physicians at Arthritis & Sports. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and tips from us, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our monthly newsletter!