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Michael Flaherty, DO, Toby Raybould, MS, of Pediatric Trauma Services and Caitlin Coit, RN, BSN, MSN, CPNP, of Pediatric Surgery at Mass General for Children, explain how to keep kids safe around fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Q: What should parents know about fireworks as the 4th of July approaches?

Fireworks are not toys. They are explosives that make noise, produce light or both. Fireworks are dangerous and can cause serious burns and injuries to adults and children. Burns and injuries most often happened to hands and fingers, head, face, ears and eyes. In 2020, at least 18 people in the U.S. died from a firework-related injury and 15,600 people were treated in hospital Emergency Departments for firework-related injuries.

Every year the Mass General for Children Emergency Department sees multiple patients who have sustained significant burns that will produce life-long disfigurement, including devastating hand injuries secondary to fireworks that explode in the hands of children and adults. This can result from improper handling or defective fireworks. Some fireworks have the explosive power of military weapons and the results of use by amateurs can be catastrophic. The use of fireworks should be left to professionals.

Q: Are “sparklers” safe?

Sparklers are not safe. They can cause severe burns and when placed inside a container, can produce an explosive force.

Q: Which fireworks are the least safe?

No firework is safe. However, projectiles, commonly known as “bottle rockets” or “Roman candles,” are especially dangerous. They not only place the user at risk but endanger bystanders. Every year, we see eye injuries that can result in blindness or require removal of the eyeball due to these projectiles. Often, the user is not the victim.

Q: What are some tips for keeping kids safe from fireworks?

There is no truly safe approach to using explosives especially when children are involved. Children often do not understand the consequences of their actions or the destructive potential of fireworks. The best policy is to explain the risks to your children and limit their access to fireworks.

All fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts for private residents, even if they are purchased in another state.

In New Hampshire, state laws allow for private use of fireworks but only those that are purchased in a licensed retail store in NH by a person age 21 or older. Consumer fireworks an only be used on private property with permission of the owner of the property.

Q: What should I do if my child is injured by fireworks?

Emergency departments are always available to treat individuals with serious burns or injuries. Minor injuries can often be dealt with at home with consultation with the patient’s primary care provider. This Fourth of July, common sense and a healthy respect for the destructive power of fireworks is the best way to prevent injury.

Rev. 6/2022. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treat any medical conditions.