June 24, 2005

Jennifer Gremmels

Prevent Sparkler Injuries on the Fourth of July


Rosemont, Ill. - The American Society for Surgery of the Hand urges parents to take the proper precautions this holiday season and keep sparklers out of the hands of children.

As Independence Day celebrations draw near, children anxiously anticipate the skies lighting up with bursts of color and lights. Unaware of the dangers, parents often allow their children partake in the festivities by holding and spinning lit sparklers.

Sparklers can reach temperatures as hot as 2,000 degrees—approximately six times as hot as a pan of cooking oil—and should not be placed in the hands of children. If sparklers are to be used, they should be set in the ground, and at an appropriate distance away from children.

According to a 2004 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report, 2,000 sparkler-related injuries occurred within a one-month period in 2003 (June 20-July 20). Of these 2,000 injuries, 1,000 injuries were reported in children 14 years and younger. 500 additional sparkler-related accidents were reported in children 15-24.

“Many families celebrate the Fourth of July with backyard fireworks and sparklers, but it’s important to understand the risks involved. More than one-third of fireworks-related injuries include burns, lacerations, fractures and traumatic amputation to the fingers, hands or arms,” says Terry R. Light, MD, president of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. “We encourage people to enjoy firework displays put on by their city or other organizations—to leave fireworks to the professionals. But for those people that want to have fireworks of their own, we hope we can remind adults to create a fun, safe environment.”

Fireworks of some kind are legal in 44 states, from firecrackers to ground-launched types. But all fireworks, even sparklers, can become dangerous if used improperly or without a thorough understanding of their hazards. The most common backyard fireworks—firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers—cause 57 percent of all fireworks injuries.

While the American Society for Surgery of the Hand does not endorse the use of consumer fireworks, it realizes that people will still set off fireworks on their own. This being the case, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the National Council of Fireworks Safety offer the following tips:

1. Never use illegal fireworks. Commonly known as M-80s, M-100s, blockbusters or quarterpounders, these devices have been federally banned since 1966. Illegal fireworks will not show a manufacturers name or label.
2. One person - clearly identified - should be responsible for igniting fireworks.
3. Intoxicated people should not light fireworks.
4. Be sure other people—especially children—and pets are out of range before lighting fireworks. Keep everyone away from falling debris as well. The debris will still be hot or on fire.
4. When setting off fireworks, always have a bucket of water and a running hose nearby.
5. Only ignite one firework at a time.
6. Never attempt to relight a “dud.” If a firework doesn’t ignite, wait 15 minutes and soak the firework in a bucket of water.
7. Dispose of spent fireworks by soaking them in water and then placing them in an outdoor trash can.
8. Should an accident occur, pressure should be applied to control bleeding, and an ambulance should be called immediately.

About Hand Surgeons
Hand surgeons have received specialized additional training in the treatment of hand problems in addition to their board certified specialty training in orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, or general surgery. To become members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, hand surgeons must have completed a full year of such additional training and must pass a rigorous certifying examination. Many hand surgeons also have expertise with problems of the elbow, arm, and shoulder. Some hand surgeons treat only children, some treat only adults, and some treat both. Common problems treated include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, wrist pain, sports injuries of the hand and wrist, fractures of the hand, wrist, and forearm, and trigger fingers. Other problems treated by hand surgeons include arthritis, nerve and tendon injuries, and congenital limb differences (birth defects). Not all problems treated by a hand surgeon need surgery. Hand surgeons often recommend non-surgical treatments, such as medication, splints, therapy, and injections. Hand surgeons are specialists devoted to hand care.

About the ASSH
The mission of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) is to advance the science and practice of hand surgery through education, research and advocacy on behalf of patients and practitioners. Founded in 1946, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand is the oldest medical specialty society in the United States devoted entirely to continuing medical education related to hand surgery.