June 13, 2007

Jennifer Gremmels

Keep Hands Safe on the Fourth of July


Rosemont, Ill. - Although many people incorporate fireworks into celebrations such as weddings, birthday parties and back yard cook-outs, fireworks and Independence Day go hand-in-hand. Each year, thousands experience hand injuries in accidents caused by fireworks. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a study that noted that a majority of the injuries from the "consumer" or “backyard”-type fireworks resulted from misuse rather than malfunction.

Fireworks of some kind are legal in 44 states, from firecrackers to ground-launched types. The most common backyard fireworks—firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers—cause 57 percent of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers have the reputation as being the “safe” alternative to backyard fireworks. That reputation could not be further from the truth. While legal in most states, sparklers may reach temperatures as hot as 2,000 degrees. All fireworks can become dangerous if used improperly.

“Many families celebrate with backyard fireworks, but it’s important to understand the risks involved. More than a third of fireworks-related injuries include burns, lacerations, fractures and traumatic amputation to the fingers, hands or arms,” says David M. Lichtman, MD, past 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 who want to use fireworks of their own, we hope we can remind adults to create a fun, safe environment.”

For those that will be setting off fireworks on their own, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the National Council of Fireworks Safety offer the following tips:

  • Follow all warning labels and read precautionary information (if any) included in fireworks package
  • Do not smoke when handling any type of "live" firecracker, rocket, or aerial display. Intoxicated people should also never light fireworks
  • Keep all fireworks away from any flammable liquids, dry grassy areas, or open bonfires
  • Take note of any sudden wind change that could cause sparks or debris to fall on a car, house or spectator
  • 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
  • Do not use any aluminum or metal soda can or glass bottle to stage or hold fireworks before lighting
  • Do not use any tightly closed container for these lighted devices to add to the exploding effect or to increase noise
  • Never make use of mail-order fireworks kits. These do-it-yourself kits are simply unsafe
  • One person - clearly identified - should be responsible for fireworks
  • When setting off fireworks, always have a bucket of water and a running hose nearby
  • Only ignite one firework at a time
  • Never attempt to relight a “dud.” If a firework doesn’t ignite, wait 15 minutes and soak the firework in a bucket of water
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by soaking them in water and then placing them in an outdoor trash can
  • 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.