HCN News & Notes

Fireworks Can Be Deadly in the Wrong Hands

SPRINGFIELD — In 2019, 10,000 fireworks injuries were treated at U.S. hospitals, similar to the number of injuries every year since 2003, according to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, with about one-quarter of them from the use of sparklers.

Last year, more people turned to the backyard use of fireworks — illegal to sell for private use in Massachusetts — as COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of many large-scale fireworks celebrations across the country.

While many cities and towns have once again canceled fireworks celebrations this year — although there will be fireworks in Springfield — area officials are reminding the public that they are illegal and dangerous when used at home.

“As an emergency medicine physician, I am well aware of the devastating injuries — serious burns, blinding, even the amputation of fingers or an entire hand — that can result when fireworks find their way into the hands of youngsters, or even adults who are not professionally trained in their use or not careful,” said Dr. Gerald Beltran, chief, Pre-Hospital Disaster Medicine, Emergency and Trauma Center, Baystate Medical Center. “Some of these horrific injuries can result in lifelong disabilities and even death. What can be especially troubling to me is adults who put fireworks into the hands of children and do not carefully monitor them. Accidents can occur, and these types of events ae completely preventable.”

If a fireworks accident occurs, Beltran suggests seeking medical attention immediately, regardless of the severity of the injury. If one or both eyes are injured, do not rub them, as this can cause further damage. If an injury occurs which causes bleeding, pressure should be applied to control the bleeding, but should be avoided on the area around the eye. Do not use any kind of aspirin or ibuprofen, which can cause blood thinning and potentially increase any bleeding that is present. Ointments and medications are not recommended, as they can make the area around the eye slippery and interfere with the doctor’s examination.

Another concern surrounding fireworks is all the loud noise. Some parents may question whether to bring their children, especially infants, to patriotic celebrations that include booming fireworks with their bright flashes of colorful explosives in the sky.

“The noise levels aren’t a major worry and should cause no harm to a little one’s ears, especially if you are far enough away from where they are being launched,” said Dr. Jerry Schreibstein of Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeons of Western New England, who is a member of the Baystate Medical Center medical staff.

However, close proximity to certain types of fireworks, especially large ones, does have the potential to cause injury to the eardrum.

While the noise levels may be acceptable for some, they can still be scary for younger children, especially individuals with special needs, such as those with Williams syndrome or autism spectrum disorder, who can be especially bothered by loud noises and might be overwhelmed by fireworks.

“Remember, the best and safest way to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday is to watch a patriotic parade in your town, plan a picnic, and attend a sanctioned community event where professionals are allowed to handle the fireworks and ensure safety,” Beltran said.