“Happy New Year — Now don’t hurt yourself!”
As the life cycle of another year begins again, we prepare to reflect on the past and celebrate the future… and those of us working in the emergency departments prepare ourselves for the results of exuberance.
Certainly alcohol-related injuries will occupy a good deal of our time, but don’t forget about things that go boom. We all know that fireworks are fascinating… and can lead to significant M&M. But even the “safe” sparklers have safety considerations. Let’s look at Fireworks Injuries.
- According to the CDC, in 2005, 10,800 people were treated in US emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries.
- 17% of all of these injuries were due to sparklers, but they were responsible for over 50% of the injuries sustained by children under 5 years of age.
- While many states ban more “professional-grade” (otherwise thought of as artillery), they do allow novelty items, like snakes and sparklers.
- Sparklers are considered by most to be “safe” (and when compared to the artillery shells, they are safer); however, sparklers can cause both minor and major injuries.
- As you would expect, sparkler-related injuries are usually:
- Minor Burns
- Corneal Abrasions
- The tip of the sparkler can attain temperatures of >1000 degrees F.
- This may lead to significant burns if inadvertently coming in direct contact with skin.
- This may lead to ignition of clothing, hair, or other surroundings (then you’ve got good ol’ fire to contend with).
Now, before you all send me messages about how I am “no-fun…” know that I do enjoy fireworks, but also look at interactions in the ED as opportunities to re-engage our patients’ families and remind them that injuries happen in less than the blink of an eye and that often “supervision” means more than just “watching” the kids, but preventing them from getting into harm’s way.
Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. Policy Statement: American Academy of Pediatrics: Fireworks-Related Injuries to Children. Pediatrics Vol. 108 (1): July 2001, pp.190-191.