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Doctors, hospitals have July 4 message: Leave fireworks to pros

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Hospitals will be treating plenty of patients injured or burned by fireworks. Clinicians implore families to go to a display offered by professionals.

Families can have fun in a lot of different ways, but spending time in an emergency department isn’t at the top of the list.

That’s one reason why doctors and hospitals are urging families to avoid lighting fireworks on their own and leave it to the professionals.

Erica Hodgman, MD, director of the pediatric burn program at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, says the emergency department typically sees plenty of injured kids around the July 4 holiday weekend. She’s among many doctors urging families not to take a DIY approach to fireworks.

“We always recommend, if you really want to see fireworks, go to a professional display, go to the big display in town, or come down to the city and see them,” she says. “It's always going to be more impressive than whatever you bought from the roadside stand anyways, and certainly a heck of a lot safer.”

Raymond Wittstadt, MD, a hand surgeon for Curtis National Hand Center, said hands are commonly injured by fireworks, “ranging from burns to the traumatic injuries and amputations.”

“We can reattach fingers but only if the finger is intact and there's somewhere to replant it. My advice? Your hands are irreplaceable. Leave fireworks shows to the experts,” Wittstadt said in a statement from MedStar Health.

Nationwide, 9,700 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks injuries in 2023, and fireworks led to eight deaths, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Doctors offer a number of suggestions for families that are determined to light fireworks for the holiday celebration.

Just don’t. Getting the hint? Doctors urge families to go to professional firework shows.

Check labels. If you’re determined to do it yourself, only use fireworks labeled for “consumers.” Don’t use fireworks marked for “professionals.”

Keep away from kids. Don’t allow kids to handle fireworks, including sparklers.

Drinking and fireworks don’t mix. If you’re lighting fireworks, don’t imbibe or use other substances.

One at a time. Light fireworks one at a time, and move back quickly.

No pointing. Don’t point or throw fireworks at anyone, and that includes sparklers.

Keep water handy. Have a hose or bucket of water nearby in case a firework starts a fire, and douse spent devices to prevent a trash fire.

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