HCN News & Notes

Massachusetts Residents Urged to Leave Fireworks to Professionals

SPRINGFIELD — The billboards can be seen from the highway enticing Massachusetts residents to break the law and go to New Hampshire to purchase fireworks.

Under state law, it is illegal to use, possess, or sell fireworks in Massachusetts. It is also illegal to buy them elsewhere and bring them into the state.

However, despite being illegal, between 2019 and 2023, Massachusetts medical facilities treated more than 200 people for burns and other injuries associated with fireworks. Two dozen people were treated for severe burn injuries that covered 5% or more of the victim’s body.

“Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts because they are dangerous and should be left to the professionals,” said Dr. Seth Gemme, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Health, referring to firecrackers, bottle rockets and sky rockets, aerial repeaters (also known as cakes), single-shot aerials, and reloadable aerial tubes, sparklers, and more.

“As an emergency-medicine physician, I often see devastating injuries from fireworks this time of year,” he added. “These include serious burns, blindness, and significant hand injuries. These horrific injuries can lead to lifelong disabilities and sometimes death. It is particularly troubling because these injuries are completely preventable and should never occur to children.”

Despite the fact that they are illegal, if a fireworks accident occurs, Gemme 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 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 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 Health medical staff.

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

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

“Stay safe and plan to attend sanctioned local fireworks celebrations in your town where professionals are allowed to handle the fireworks and ensure safety,” Gemme said.