Did you know July 4 is the busiest day of the year for firefighters and emergency rooms? Here's how to treat fireworks-related injuries. Everyone should read this by Friday.
Prevention: As with all things, the best cure. If you're planning to set off fireworks on your own, make sure doing so is permitted in your area and do it in a location free of fire hazards and away from structures like your home or garage. Arrange the fireworks on a stable, fireproof surface with a foot or more of space between each device to prevent them from lighting each other. Read any and all safety and warning labels. Keep a bucket of water, garden hose or fire extinguisher to hand.
Is there wind? Position the fireworks so they're downwind of spectators — the wind should blow the sparks, smoke and whatnot away from your friends and family. And, they should stand 25 feet or more back if you're lighting fountains and 100 yards or so away if you're shooting rockets into the air.
Light each firework one at a time, then stand back and wait for that device to finish its display before stepping forward to light another. Should a device fail to explode in the expected manner, do not attempt to re-light it.
Sparkler's are freakin' dangerous. Hot enough to cook an egg, children should be instructed on safe handling ahead of time and supervised while playing with them. A frequent cause of injury is picking up a spent, but still hot sparkler.
After the display, soak all the used fireworks — duds or spent — with your garden hose. It's a good idea to have a bucket of sand or water specifically for the purpose of dropping used sparklers into.
There's a lot of common sense involved with fireworks — keep your children and pets away from them, don't look down the barrel of a spent or loaded tube, don't hold lit fireworks in your hands, don't set yourself on fire etc. Fireworks are explosives. Explosives are dangerous. You really don't want your last words to be, "Here, hold my beer…"
Prepare A First-Aid Kit: You keep a first-aid kit in your home and car, right? Now's the time to dig it out, make sure the bandages and pain pills and whatnot aren't used up or expired and to update it with July 4th specific supplies.
- Sterile Saline Solution is great for cleaning eyes and can also be used to clean debris out of wounds on the rest of your body.
- Cling Wrap or similar can be used to protect burns while you transport a person to the ER or wait for an ambulance.
- Second Skin Moist Burn pads are a good way to protect and cool minor burns.
- Aloe Vera gel can help treat and "cool" burns in the days following the accident.
- Pain relievers expire, so check the dates and make sure you have some that are up to date. Burns hurt!
- Blunt tip scissors are handy for cutting clothing off injured areas without stabbing yourself or the victim.
- It's also a good idea to have a dedicated fire blanket or wool blanket on hand. Those won't melt or burn if exposed to direct flame, so can help you smother anyone that manages to light themselves on fire. You may need to treat someone for shock as well, so that blanket will give them something to lie down on or something you can wrap them in to keep them warm. I've got a big ol' military blanket I bought at a surplus store for $20 or so.
Stop, Drop And Roll? Person on fire? Stop them from running around, lay them on the ground and smother the flames by rolling the person onto them or with a blanket, jacket or similar.
Treating Minor Burns: Red and painful, perhaps with a small blister or blisters.
- Immediately run the burn area under cool water for at least 10 minutes.
- While doing so, remove any jewelry or clothing from the affected area.
- Once cool, cover the area with Second Skin (or similar) or cling wrap to protect it. Do not use cloth bandages or similar materials that may stick to the burn.
- Aloe Vera gel or other soothing treatments can be applied after this initial treatment, but only if the burn is minor.
- If the burn is larger than your hand or the person is young, old or otherwise in frail health, take them to the ER.
Treating Major Burns: Deep, with significant blistering and damage to the skin. Frequently the result of burning clothing or direct exposure to flame.
- Cool the burn immediately with running water. If the burn covers a large area of a person's body, you may need to use a garden hose or buckets of water.
- Call an ambulance or immediately transport the victim to an Emergency Room if you don't have phone reception.
- Remove clothing or jewelry from the burn area, but only if it's not stuck to the wound.
- Cover the wound with a sterile, protective dressing such as that plastic cling film.
Treating Amputation: Fireworks occasionally cost people their fingers or toes. Prompt medical treatment can reattach them.
- Call 911.
- Lay the victim down and elevate the injured body part.
- Remove any visible foreign objects.
- Apply direct pressure to the wound for 15 minutes to stop bleeding.
- If possible, retrieve the amputated finger or toe and rinse (don't scrub) it clean, then wrap it in a clean, damp cloth and make sure it goes to the hospital with the victim. Don't place the digit on ice, which will damage the blood vessels and make reattachment difficult.
Treating Shock: If a person experience a major injury, they may go into shock. When a person goes into shock, their organs don't get enough blood an oxygen, which can lead to permanent damage. Signs of shock are cool and clammy skin, confusion, dilated pupils or a weak and/or uneven pulse.
- Lie down with feet slightly raised higher than head.
- If not breathing, begin CPR.
- Loosen clothing for comfort, but keep warm with a blanket.
- If vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn victim on side.
Treating Eye Injuries: Yet another fun part of blowing shit up is that it's occasionally going to get in someone's eye. If the eyeball is punctured, pulled out of the socket or burned, you'll need to protect it (cupping a hand over the area works great) and get the victim immediate medical attention. If it's just some minor irritation, you can treat it yourself. Never attempt to pop an eyeball back into a person's socket.
- Flush the eye with sterile saline solution or clean water.
- Examine the eye under a bright light and continue to flush it until all foreign objects are washed out.
- Seek medical treatment if vision is impaired or an object has penetrated the eye's surface.
Happy Birthday America!
IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.