Hospital officials urge fireworks safety



Use them right and they’re a lot of fun. Misuse them and you could end up in the hospital.

Fireworks were involved in more than 8,700 injuries nationwide in 2012, according to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In a test field of 34 cases, about 68 percent were the result of misuse.

Joseph M. Still Burn Center Medical Director Fred Mullins sees fireworks-related injuries every year – more around July 4th than any other time.

“Usually it starts the day before and runs through the weekend,” he said.

The burn center typically treats injuries ranging from small burns to mangled hands, seeing the latter at least once or twice a year, Mullins said.

“Once I had someone making homemade fireworks who lost all but two of their fingers,” he added.

In its busiest year, the burn center saw 47 fireworks-related cases. On average, Mullins said he’ll see 10 to 20 patients during the week of July 4th. He estimates that misuse is the cause of half of the injuries he sees.

Children 14 and younger make up 30 percent of fireworks-related injuries, the CPSC report said. Sparklers were the leading cause of injuries to children, with more than 300 cases reported.

“Children 5 and under should to not be given sparklers,” said Rene Hopkins, the coordinator of Safe Kids Greater Augusta. “They’re too young and their arms are too short for them to handle (sparklers) properly.”

Hopkins added that sparkers burn at temperature five times greater than heated cooking oil.

Natalie Lane, the medical director of the Children’s Medical Center Emergency Department at Georgia Regents Medical Center, said the center doesn’t track the number of fireworks-related cases by year, but consumers should leave fireworks to the professionals.

“Even those fireworks that are sold in grocery stores are still not completely safe,” she said. “From the children’s side, I would encourage people to attend the community events.”

The Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissiner issued a statement Tuesday reminding that most fireworks are still illegal in Georgia. The ban includes firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs, and carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and a year in jail, the statement said.

Legality aside, Mullins and Lane said their centers are capable of handling the influx of injuries surrounding July Fourth.

“We stay ready,” Mullins said.

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