With COVID-19 resulting in the cancelation of many public Fourth of July celebrations, more families may be inclined to use fireworks at home. Mayo Clinic Health System is reminding people to exercise extreme caution when using the devices, as deaths and injuries occur every year.

In 2018 alone, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported five deaths from direct impact of fireworks, and more than 9,000 injuries were treated at emergency departments in the U.S.

The hands and arms are often the site of injuries, due to lighting fireworks and holding them,” says Kim Schutterle, M.D., Emergency Medicine physician, Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont. “Sparklers also cause burns to hands and arms, especially in small children.”

The eyes are especially susceptible to injury from fireworks. Eye wounds account for about 20 percent of fireworks-related injuries from the gunpowder, sulfur and charcoal that make up most fireworks and that can cause corneal abrasions and worse.

Dr. Schutterle advises people who choose to include fireworks in their celebration to follow these safety tips:

  • Be sure to read all of the safety information and instructions for proper use.

·                     Keep small children away from fireworks.

·                     Only use fireworks in an open area that is far away from animals, buildings, brush or any combustible materials.

·                     Light one device at a time. Never attempt to relight a device that doesn’t ignite the first time.

·                     Have a bucket of water nearby to cool used sparkler wires and extinguish other fireworks.

·                     Never allow anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs to use fireworks.

·                     Once you light it, get away quickly. That warning is on firework labels for a reason.

If an eye injury occurs, a person’s instinct might be to rinse the eyes, but people shouldn’t rinse, rub or apply pressure to the eyes. Doing so may result in irritants, such as charcoal or gunpowder, to move around the eye and cause further damage. Instead, patients should seek immediate medical attention.

For more information, visit mayoclinichealthsystem.org.