Fourth of July fireworks can harm: How to stay safe

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Fourth of July
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Hearing loss, burns and other injuries can occur from fireworks on the Fourth of July. Experts have advice on how to stay safe from loud noises, burns and other injuries this Independence Day.

Experts from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center warn of the hazards of burns that can lead to scars and disfigurement during Fourth of July fireworks, even for observers who believe they may be safe.

Wendy Pomerantz, MD, emergency medicine physician and one of the leading coordinators for the Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center explains, “During the summer, fireworks become a fascination for kids of all ages. But some don’t realize how dangerous fireworks can be”.

Last year, 8,600 people were treated in emergency departments for fireworks injuries. Firework events within 30 days of Independence Day accounted for 1900 emergency room visits for injuries. Forty percent of those visits were for children under the age of 15.

Sparklers that seem safe produce heat above 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and can injure users and bystanders alike.

For safety, the hospital experts say never allow older children to use fireworks without adult supervision, observe local laws and keep children away from fireworks altogether, including sparklers.

When choosing which displays to purchase, stay away from fireworks in brown paper packaging that usually means they're made for professional displays only. Always buy from a reliable source and not over the internet.

Only light fireworks after ensuring everyone is out of harm’s way and read all of the instructions before lighting. To avoid injury, light one at a time and never in a glass or metal container. Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

Be aware of the harm to pets. Never throw fireworks and use long matches to light. Protective eye wear should be worn by the person setting off displays.

Keep a bucket of water or hose nearby in case of fire.

After spending fireworks, soak them in water for 15 or 25 minutes and then discard in the trash.

This Fourth of July is going to be hot in most regions of the country and many areas are dry, making it especially important to follow safety tips and local ordinances.

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The best advice is to leave Fourth of July fireworks up to experts and attend a professional display, rather than setting them off at home.

Don't forget your ears

Fireworks can hurt hearing. Loyola University experts note one in ten Americans has hearing loss from excessive noise or aging.

Once hearing loss develops, it may be irreversible, affecting quality of life from inability to effectively communicate with others.

But it’s not just Fourth of July fireworks that can harm hearing.

Concerts, lawnmowers, trains and road construction are summer hazards that can damage the small bones in the ear, leading to loss of hearing.

Jyoti Bhayani, certified audiologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System says, “Hearing loss due to excessive noise is totally preventable, unlike old age or a medical condition.”

Fireworks typically produce 150 decibels. To avoid damage, ear protectors are recommended for anything over 85 decibels.

“It is important to know the intensity of the sounds around you,” said Dr. Bhayani. “I recommend using hearing protection devices for those who are exposed to excessive, loud noises and musician’s ear plugs, which simply attenuate the intensity/loudness without altering frequency response.” People can be individually sensitive to levels of sound, but experts recommend using hearing protection when exposed to sounds louder than 85 decibels for an extended time.”

Common exposures to more than 85 decibels include power saws, shop tools, lawnmowers, chainsaws, drills and car horns, with Fourth of July fireworks near the top of the list at 150 decibels.

“The truth about hearing is loud and painful – once a nerve is damaged, it cannot be restored. It is gone forever”, says Bhayani, who recommends at least covering your ears when exposed to summer noises.

When it comes to avoiding hearing loss from summer sounds, and especially on the upcoming 4th of July holiday, Bhayani recommends purchasing earplugs. Carry them in your pocket or purse and use them when exposed to loud, continuous noises this summer.

Fourth of July is a huge celebration, but comes with health hazards. Injuries and hearing loss that can occur could last for a lifetime. Protect your hearing all summer and especially during Independence Day celebrations. Follow expert tips for avoiding injuries and protecting hearing this holiday and year round.

Image credit: Morguefile

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