Playing with fire

When I was little, we’d buy fireworks from vacant lot stands off the freeway. Then my friends and I would light them at the beach on the 4th.  I remember hopping frantically to avoid getting hit by screeching projectiles flying at ankle level. I also remember burning my index finger and thumb with a sparkler. With that seared thumb in mind, I fished around for some cautionary tidbits to prevent people from doing the same:
A thirteen year old boy from Augusta, Georgia, lost his right thumb Monday afternoon while playing with fireworks outside his home.
Between June 18th and July 18th, 2005, firecrackers caused 26 percent of injuries, sparklers caused 17 percent, and rockets accounted for 17 percent of injuries seen in emergency rooms across the country.
According to the CDC’s fireworks-related injuries factsheet, between June 16 and July 16, 2006:
  • The body parts most often harmed in fireworks-related injuries were hands (2,300 injuries), eyes (1,500 injuries), and the head, face, and ear (1,400 injuries).
  • More than half of the injuries were burns. Burns were the most common injury to all body parts except the eyes and head areas, where contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies in the eye occurred more frequently.
  • Fireworks can be associated with blindness, third degree burns, and permanent scarring.
  • Fireworks can also cause life-threatening residential and motor vehicle fires.
Although burns represent more than half of all fireworks-related injuries, nearly 26 percent involve the hands and fingers.

“Fireworks can cause tremendous injury to the hand,” said Dr. Traci Barthel of Valley Orthopedic Associates in Renton, Wash. “The result is usually a blast injury to the hand or fingers which cannot be reconstructed.”

Most of these injuries result in amputation.


A 2000 study reported that out of 98 fireworks-related injuries serious enough to require hospital care, half were admitted around the 4th of July. Researchers from Caro Research Institute in Concord, Mass., and The University of Connecticut Medical School in Farmington, Conn., reported that 40% of those with serious injuries were children under age 15 years. One third of those admitted required an amputation of an arm, finger or thumb.

So, be careful out there … and pass the potato salad. 



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