Use caution with fireworks to avoid eye, limb injuries

Checkup on Health

hand-held sparkler
The eyes and limbs are the most commonly injured areas in fireworks accidents, with teen and young adult males among the most frequently injured.

The Fourth of July means summer sun, barbecues, parades and, of course, fireworks. But improper fireworks use can result in injury to users and bystanders and take all the fun out of Independence Day, said UC Davis Trauma Prevention Program Coordinator Christy Adams.

"Fireworks are extremely dangerous if mishandled, and should be used with care," said Adams, a registered nurse.
"Injuries to the eyes and limbs are most common, with teen and young adult males among the most frequently injured," she said.

Adams noted that even legal fireworks can cause injury if not handled properly. She offered this advice to avoid fireworks injuries:

  • Store all fireworks in a cool, dry place, far from gasoline or other sources of ignition.
  • Inspect fireworks before use, and don't light wet, leaky or damaged fireworks, as their behavior is unpredictable.
  • Inspect fuses, since fireworks shipped from abroad can lose fuse powder and ignite unpredictably.
  • Like any other volatile substance, always keep fireworks away from children.
  • Don't mix fireworks, drugs and alcohol, since they impair judgment, coordination and reflexes, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Read instruction labels carefully before lighting fireworks, light only one at a time, and don't try to re-ignite fireworks that won't light. Only light fireworks in a large outdoor area cleared of flammable materials, and have a bucket or hose ready to douse malfunctioning fireworks.
  • Never aim or throw fireworks at other people. Sparklers are banned because children tended to panic while holding them, throw them away and cause fires. Keep observers at a safe distance, and never allow very young children to handle fireworks.
  • Lastly, be a good fireworks safety role model for children. Establish clear rules about fireworks, and be firm. If you have illegal fireworks, turn them in to your local fire station during regular business hours. Fire officials will accept them on a "no questions asked" basis and dispose of them safely.

For more fireworks safety tips, visit the Web site of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, at (PDF document, opens new window).