Tips for enjoying a safe Fourth of July

July 02, 2021
image of multiple white fireworks exploding high in the sky
The best way to safely enjoy fireworks is to leave them to the professionals. Photo by Damir Mijailovic via Pexels.

Think “Fourth of July” and you probably think fireworks. Depending on your family tradition, you might also picture the pool, the beach or grilling out.

All fun activities – and the folks at MUSC Health and MUSC Children’s Health want to make sure you enjoy them safely and for years to come. Two experts gave a few tips for enjoying the upcoming holiday weekend in a way that keeps everyone’s fingers and toes intact.

Steven Kahn, M.D., the chief of burn surgery, has seen plenty of disfiguring and life-threatening injuries from fireworks during his career.

Steve Kahn MD 
Dr. Steven Kahn

During one particularly intense Fourth of July when he worked in Nashville, he treated 31 fireworks injury victims. That’s a record that he hopes he’ll never come close to matching here in Charleston.

Fireworks are best left to professionals, said Christa Green, injury prevention coordinator in pediatric trauma.

“Fireworks are inherently incredibly dangerous. Even people with the best of intentions should leave it to the professionals,” she said. Last year saw approximately 15,600 fireworks-related emergency room visits across the U.S., according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Happily, most municipalities in the Charleston area have resumed their public displays after canceling them last year over concerns about large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Kahn and Green offered a few tips for those who want to set off their own fireworks.

First, fireworks should be set off within a 20-foot safety zone that no one enters except a designated lighter, they said.

Kahn said the designated lighter should wear eye protection and make sure not to light fireworks while holding them.

Don’t mix alcohol and pyrotechnics, Kahn added. And don’t pick up or try to relight a dud.

At the end of the night, make sure all of the used fireworks are doused with water and cooled before they’re disposed of, Kahn said.

They both cautioned against sparklers, which can get up to 1,200 degrees. Holding multiple sparklers only intensifies that heat and can cause them to shoot flames, Kahn said. Green suggested allowing children to wave glow sticks instead.

Grilling can also cause burns. Similar to fireworks, Green suggested a three-foot “grill-master zone” around the grill that no one else enters. She also suggested doing without lighter fluid and, of course, ensuring that the grill is safely away from the house and trees.

Fireworks and grills aren’t the only possible hazards to look out for, though. Pools and beaches are fun, but any body of water can be dangerous.

Everyone, both kids and adults, should learn to swim as a life skill. Of course, that won’t happen in one weekend, and so children must be under supervision at all times. That means undistracted supervision, Green said, not an adult “supervising” while also scrolling through the phone, reading a book or grilling and glancing back every now and then.

“Drowning can happen in an instant, and it can be silent,” she said.

Floaties are not a substitute for a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, she said.

In any body of water, children should always be within arm’s reach. If a pool has a fence, the gate should securely latch so that children cannot enter – don't depend on a child to listen when you say, “Don’t go in the pool without me,” Green said. Many of the beaches in the Charleston area have lifeguards but don’t depend on a lifeguard for your child’s safety, she said. They have to watch hundreds of people while you can focus on your own child.

Lastly, Green noted that we are entering the hottest weeks of the year, and people should remember never to leave children or pets alone in the car for any amount of time.

“Most of the temperature rise occurs in the first half-hour,” she said.

Children should be taught not to play in cars, and cars at home, even in the garage, should be locked so that children can’t get into them to play.

If you’re out in public and see a child or pet in a car, even if the windows are cracked, don’t hesitate to call 911, she said.

About the Author

Leslie Cantu
MUSC Catalyst News

Keywords: Features, Pediatrics