HCN News & Notes

Stay Safe and Leave Fireworks Displays to the Professionals

SPRINGFIELD — You know the Fourth of July is just around the corner when you see the billboards up beckoning buyers to head to New Hampshire for their fireworks. Why? Because fireworks are illegal to sell as well as for private use in Massachusetts, which is one of only two states (along with Delaware) to enforce full bans on consumer fireworks.

Among the New England states, Massachusetts stands alone in declaring all types of fireworks illegal, including firecrackers; bottle rockets and sky rockets; aerial repeaters, also known as cakes; single-shot aerials and reloadable aerial tubes; sparklers; party poppers; and snakes.

“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 of Pre-Hospital Disaster Medicine in the Emergency and Trauma Center at 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.

According to the Insurance Journal, at least eight people lost their lives to fireworks in 2017, while another 12,900 ended up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries. Also, about two-thirds of the 11,000 to 13,000 fireworks-related injuries reported most years happen around the July 4 holiday — between mid-June and mid-July.

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 not 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. Using 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 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 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.

“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 one of the many sanctioned community events where professionals are allowed to handle the fireworks and ensure safety,” Beltran said.