(CNN) — Using fireworks is a tradition for many families on certain dates, for example during the 4th of July in the US or Canada Day, but it can have dangerous consequences, especially for young people.
An estimated 11,500 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2021. Of those, 8,500 occurred between June 18 and July 18, according to the 2021 Annual Fireworks Report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. During that time period, people under the age of 25 and under the age of 15 accounted for about 49% and 29% of total injuries, respectively.
Even those who understand the risks often skip fireworks safety, according to a survey.
Some parents don’t follow all the safety precautions for using fireworks and sparklers with their children, according to a report from the US National Survey of Children’s Health. CS Mott Children’s Hospital at Michigan Health University.
“Parents need to take their part, take their responsibility to make sure, to the best of their ability, that they don’t create a situation that’s going to spoil or impede the celebration because somebody got burned or somebody got injured,” said Sarah Clark, a research scientist at the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Institute for Health Care Policy and Innovation. Clark is co-director of the National Fireworks Safety Survey.
Fireworks-related injuries are avoidable and preventable, said Susan McKelvey, communications manager for the National Fire Protection Association. If you can, it’s best to attend a public fireworks display put on by trained professionals, she added.
“That’s the safest way to enjoy fireworks,” McKelvey said. “And you probably won’t see anything more spectacular anywhere else.”
If you choose to light fireworks on your own, here are some ways you can protect yourself and those around you.
So you can stay safe if you use fireworks
First, before you buy or use fireworks, make sure they’re legal in your area, Alex Hoehn-Saric, chairman of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, told CNN. The American Pyrotechnics Association has a directory of state laws and regulations for the use of fireworks.
Consumers should never use fireworks or sparklers indoors or without reading proper fireworks use instructions, said Jane Terry, vice president of government affairs for the National Safety Council.
When using fireworks, remember these words: water, one at a time, and walk away, Hoehn-Saric added. Have water nearby in case of mishaps or accidents, just light one at a time and quickly move away from the fireworks once you light them. If one of them doesn’t light up after you turn it on, don’t try to turn it back on, she said.
Once fireworks and sparklers have been used or deemed defective, it’s best to submerge them in water, according to Clark.
Fireworks can be unpredictable, and it’s important to wear protective goggles or glasses to minimize the risk of eye injury, he said.
Alcohol, drugs, and fireworks don’t mix. Anyone who has used alcohol or drugs should not use fireworks or sparklers.
“Whether it’s setting off the fireworks or watching the kids with the sparklers, someone has to be on top of it, and that person has to be on task and sober,” Clark said.
How to keep your kids safe around fireworks
Parents and caregivers should determine their children’s maturity level before deciding to allow them to participate in activities related to fireworks and sparklers, Clark said. Children must be willing to follow safety rules, even when excited, and parents must make sure their children understand those rules. Most importantly, she added, parents must constantly enforce those rules.
“Accidents are really hard to predict,” he said. “Children get excited; they forget they have a burning object in their hand, and that’s when the object touches their own body or someone else’s.”
Sparklers may seem like a harmless alternative to fireworks, but they burn at a temperature of about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause serious injury if improperly held or dropped on feet and clothing, Terry said by email. .
“Glass melts at 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, so that means you’re putting something hotter on people’s hands, often including children’s hands,” McKelvey said.
Older children can light sparklers if used properly with adult supervision, but young children shouldn’t touch them at all, Terry said.
Some flare safety rules, which also apply to adults, include keeping the flare away from your face, using only one at a time, keeping your distance from others using flares, and not dropping the flare on the ground. People can also wear shoes to help protect their feet in case they step on a hot flare, Clark said.
“Being safe, no matter what you’re doing, is of the utmost importance,” said Terry. “Preventable injuries and deaths increase during the summer, and whether it’s fireworks, heat-related incidents or traffic accidents, we need to be aware of what can be done to reduce risk.”