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With the Fourth of July holiday just around the corner, the issue of fireworks safety is increasingly important. Fireworks, while fun to watch, can be very dangerous if used incorrectly.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 8,700 people were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms due to fireworks in 2012. In addition, more fires happen on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires.

Dr. Salil Gulati, assistant professor of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, said the best way to protect yourself and others during the holiday is to attend public fireworks displays hosted by professionals who know how to safely handle fireworks.

Fireworks burn at approximately the same temperature as a household match and can cause burn injuries and ignite clothing if not used properly. Dr. Gulati said the most common fireworks injuries he sees are related to consumer firecrackers and involve injuries to the extremities (most commonly hands), as well as facial injuries (most commonly the eyes).

Dr. Gulati, who is medical director of the Arnold Luterman Regional Burn Center at USA Medical Center, said the most common type of burns from fireworks injuries are second- or third-degree burns. Second-degree burns affect both the outer and underlying layer of skin and cause pain, redness, swelling and blistering. Third-degree burns extend into deeper tissues and cause white or blackened skin that may be numb. Blast-type injuries and chemical injuries from fireworks are also common.

“If you get burned when using fireworks, put the fire out as soon as possible, get away from the source, and get medical attention in the nearest emergency room,” Dr. Gulati said.

If you get an eye injury from fireworks, you should also always seek consultation in the nearest emergency room. “Eye injuries require attention by a trained physician or an eye surgeon,” Dr. Gulati said. “If an eye injury occurs, do not touch or rub it, as this may cause more damage.”

If you still wish to use fireworks at home, keep these tips in mind: 

• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, even sparklers
• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities
• Ignite fireworks away from surrounding people – fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction
• Do not ignite fireworks while holding them in your hand
• Do not ignite fireworks in enclosed spaces
• Make sure you, your kids, and others watch fireworks displays from a safe distance
• Call 911 immediately if someone is injured from fireworks.

For more information on fireworks safety, visit http://fireworkssafety.org/.

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