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Fireworks Safety Tips

By Colleen Mahoney

This year, sparkler devices and other small fireworks that sit on the ground and don’t explode into the air are legally for sale in Cattaraugus County.

Passed in April, the county now allows the sale and use of this limited type of fireworks from June 1 through July 5 and from December 26 through January 2.

Just because they are legally available, however, does not make them safe.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 67 percent of reported firework injuries in 2014 happened in the month around the July 4th holiday. More than 50 percent of those injuries were burns, with 36 percent occurring on the hands and fingers, 19 percent to the eyes, 19 percent to the head, face or ears and 10 percent to the legs.

And, nineteen percent of fireworks injuries are caused by sparklers, the CPSC says.

You can still have fun with sparklers if you take some basic precautions, however. The CPSC offers the following safety tips to help lower the risk of sustaining injuries:

Children should never be left unsupervised while handling fireworks, and children under 15 should never play with or ignite fireworks.

Don’t lean or hold any body part directly over the device while lighting the fuse.

Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

Do not relight or handle fireworks that didn’t fully ignite.

Olean General Hospital’s Emergency Services Medical Director, Pam Sullivan, MD, FACP, echoed the safety precautions that should be taken, and offered some more of her own.

“Obviously, avoidance is the best way to reduce the risk [of getting injured],” Sullivan said. “Sparklers look innocent, but they can heat up to 2,000 degrees.”

She suggests keeping a bucket of water or hose nearby to help extinguish fireworks. Wearing loose fitting clothing is not recommended, Sullivan said, though fire retardant clothing items can reduce the risk of fire. Sullivan also cautions against mixing alcohol consumption with the handling of fireworks.

In the event that someone does get a burn injury while using fireworks, Sullivan said the patient should get immediate medical attention.

“For any burn injury … no matter how minor, the patient needs to be evaluated immediately,” she said. “Get to an urgent care center, the emergency room or your primary care physician.”

If someone experiences a minor burn, Sullivan said the first step is to remove any clothing that might still be burning or hot.

Run cool water over the injury and cover with a clean cloth or non-adhesive bandage. No matter the burn, Sullivan said, ice should never be put on the injury.

If the patient isn’t allergic, Sullivan recommends giving them ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

For those who blister from their burns, don’t pop or open them, she said.

Most important, individuals who have serious burns should go to an emergency room for medical attention.

“We’re always prepared for all emergencies, 24/7,” Sullivan said.

Call 911 if:

– Burn penetrates all layers of skin

– Skin is leathery or charred looking, with white, brown or – black patches

– Burn blister is larger than two inches or oozes

– Hands, feet, face or genitals are burned

– The person is an infant or a senior

– Cover loosely with sterile, nonstick bandage or, for large areas, a sheet or other material that that won’t leave lint in wound.

Boxed information courtesy of WebMD

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