Keep Hands Safe on the Fourth of July

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The American Society for Surgery of the Hand offers tips for a safe Fourth of July.

Fireworks are a major part of the Fourth of July. No Independence Day celebration would be complete without seeing the sky lit up in a dazzling display of color. But every year, thousands experience hand injuries in accidents caused by fireworks. In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, 70 to 75 percent of all annual fireworks-related injuries occur during a 30-day period surrounding the Fourth of July (June 23 to July 23).

Fireworks of some kind are legal in 44 states, from firecrackers to ground-launched types. But all fireworks, even sparklers, can become dangerous if used improperly or without a thorough understanding of their hazards. The most common backyard fireworks—firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers—cause 57 percent of all fireworks injuries.

"Many families celebrate with backyard fireworks, but it's important to understand the risks involved. More than a third of fireworks-related injuries include burns, lacerations, fractures and traumatic amputation to the fingers, hands or arms," says Roy A. Meals, MD, president of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. "We encourage people to enjoy firework displays put on by their city or other organizations—to leave fireworks to the professionals. But for those people that want to have fireworks of their own, we hope we can remind adults to create a fun, safe environment."

For those that will be setting off fireworks on their own, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the National Council of Fireworks Safety offer the following tips:

--Never use illegal fireworks. Commonly known as M-80s, M-100s, blockbusters or quarterpounders, these devices have been federally banned since 1966. Illegal fireworks will not show a manufacturers name or label.

--While legal in most states, sparklers may reach temperatures as hot as 2,000 degrees. Keep sparklers out of the hands of children—no matter how safe an environment may seem.

--If sparklers are used, do not hold sparklers or run around with them. Instead, put them in the ground.

--Be sure other people-especially children-and pets are out of range before lighting fireworks. Keep everyone away from falling debris as well. The debris will still be hot or on fire.

--When setting off fireworks, always have a bucket of water and a running hose nearby.

--Only ignite one firework at a time.

--Never attempt to relight a "dud". If a firework doesn't ignite, wait 15 minutes and soak the firework in a bucket of water.

--Dispose of spent fireworks by soaking them in water and then placing them in an outdoor trash can.

--Should an accident occur, pressure should be applied to control bleeding, and an ambulance should be called immediately.

For more information about the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and its free "Find a Hand Surgeon" service offered to the general public, please visit: http://www.HandCare.org.

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