The great American tradition of shooting fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July began in 1776, a mere four days after independence was won – July 8th, in fact. As it turns out, our propensity for the pyro began as a sarcastic gesture to our mother country of England – that’s right, the colorful display began to make fun of King George and his ilk. England frequently used fireworks to celebrate pageants and holidays, so we used it to rub in their faces that they lost to the small yet scrappy 13 Original Colonies. Fitting, that we celebrated our declaration of independence with a colorful cacophony of bird-flipping proportions. They liked it so much, that July 4th was more formally celebrated a year later, and then, in 1941, it was codified into law as a nationally recognized holiday.
Fireworks are dangerous, of course. They are controlled explosions consisting of fuses, gunpowder, and a variety of other metals and chemicals to provide us with the various sounds and colors they emit. And every year, they prove to fun-loving folks nationwide that regardless of how pretty they are, they still are very much volatile. In 2020, over 15,000 people were hospitalized with injuries sustained as a result of fireworks – those who were admitted to the hospital. Who knows how many other unreported injuries take place? Who knows how many folks are running around with less than ten digits – secretly?!
The most common injuries are on the hands and fingers. Want to rearrange your hand into an abstract modern art flesh sculpture? Well, look no further, friend: fireworks are your answer. Multiple fractures, soft tissue lacerations, severe burns, traumatic amputations – a smorgasbord of possibilities.
Next up, is the face. Yes, the face. Because these explosions are somewhat spontaneous, they sometimes explode in the face of the person attempting to light the fuse. Also, holding a bottle rocket between one’s teeth. I wish I were making this up. Lost teeth, eyes, entire noses, jaws – not pretty, not fun. A cheap yet surprising nose job rarely ends well.
Beyond these, you have your standard blunt force injuries from blasts and/or shrapnel, penetrating injuries from the aforementioned shrapnel, and significant burns. Basically, anything that can happen with a bomb can happen with these.
Total buzzkill, am I right? BUT! Fear not, fellow pyros. Remember that trauma is trauma – and the best cure is prevention in the first place. Follow basic safety principles and use common sense – if you have no common sense, leave it to the professionals (easier said than done….). And if the worst does happen?
Don’t panic – remember the principles of Stop the Bleed. Call for help, stop bleeding using a tourniquet and applying pressure, cover burns with a dry dressing, and seek professional assistance. And for goodness’ sake, do not mix alcohol with gunpowder – they don’t mix well, ever. For a great list of safety tips, the National Safety Council has some great ones, along with videos for the media junkie. Make sure your trauma kit is phireworks ready with some great gear from Phokus (see what I did there?!).
From the meandering medical mind of Phokus, stay safe out there, Space Rangers, and remember- Phollow the Phrog!