Fireworks Hand Injury: How to Avoid It

fireworks hand injury

It’s the season of celebrating, and many will do so with a bang: fireworks! While most of us will have a good time, an alarmingly large number of others will suffer a fireworks-related hand injury.

In today’s blog post, I’ll discuss the facts surrounding fireworks hand injuries and how to avoid them.

What Happens In a Fireworks Hand Injury?

Here in Louisiana, fireworks are available on seemingly every street corner. So people mistakenly assume they are safe for anyone to handle.

According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, “firework-related injuries range in severity from superficial burns to complete loss of the hand and fingers.”

Fireworks hand injury comprised 53% of all hand injuries in a recent study of emergency room data. These injuries most often occur while attempting to light the fuse of the explosive device.

Typically, the injury is caused by a fuse burning too quickly, not giving the victim enough time to get away.

While burns are the most common type of fireworks hand injury, making up 57% of the total injuries, the degree and level of contamination of this type of burn are enormously underestimated.

The most common injuries are burns to the fingers, hand, and wrist (26.7%), followed by injuries to the eye (14.9%), and open injuries to the hand and wrist (6.5%). 

Broken bones, dislocations, and amputations can also result from blast injuries.

The degree and level of contamination of firework hand injury are enormously underestimated.

Fireworks Create Complex Injuries

A fireworks hand injury doesn’t just hurt, it can be very nasty on a microscopic level. Bacteria and tetanus spores in the paper or cardboard of the exploding device may require a course of systematic antibiotics and appropriate tetanus prevention.

Remnants of the explosion including gunpowder residue, cardboard fibers, charcoal, sulfur dust, and ash are frequently “tattooed” into the burned area and make these fireworks-injured patients likely candidates for surgical debridement and treatment.

Appropriate follow-up is recommended to prevent scarring that can cause restriction of movement around the injured area (burn contractures), or life-threatening infections.

Children are at Highest Risk of Injury

Little ones are the most likely victims of fireworks injuries.

The statistics show children 14 years of age and younger sustained nearly half (47%) of the reported fireworks injuries.

15 to 44-year-olds had 44% of the injuries. However, only 9% of the reported fireworks injuries occurred in the 45-year and older group of patients.

As a hand surgeon, I actually “sit down” with my patients and talk with them as I exam them.

While I love my job, I dislike the pain and suffering caused by any preventable injury, especially those caused by fireworks.

Children 14 years of age and younger sustained nearly half (47%) of the reported fireworks injuries.

Weighing the Risk vs the Reward

I urge my friends, family and patients to consider attending a professional fireworks display instead of handling fireworks themselves.

Preventing fireworks hand injuries is important, as even a minor injury or burn from a simple sparkler may cause painful burn that can take weeks to heal. This may interrupt a patient’s work schedule and affect the patient’s ability to earn a living. In cases I’ve seen first hand, improvised “sparkler bombs” have resulted in the complete amputation of a young person’s hand.

If you must use bottle rockets, sparklers, and firecrackers – the top three perpetrators in fireworks hand injury – please exercise extreme caution, and follow the safety recommendations below. Your hands will thank you!

DO’s and DON’Ts to Avoid Fireworks Injuries

  • DO supervise children when using fireworks.
  • DO stay 500 feet away from the launch site.
  • DO wear eye protection when using fireworks.
  • DO read and follow instructions before using fireworks at home.
  • DO remain standing when using sparklers.
  • DO soak used fireworks in water before throwing in a trash bag.
  • DON’T alter, combine or attempt to build your own fireworks.
  • DON’T allow small children to use fireworks or sparklers.
  • DON’T try to relight a “dud” firework.
  • DON'T use fireworks inside at any time.
  • DON’T throw fireworks or sparklers.
  • DON’T Touch fireworks debris. It may still be active or hot.

Have questions about your hands, wrists or elbows?

I wish everyone a happy, safe holiday celebration! If a hand, wrist or elbow condition is effecting your quality of life, contact my office today to learn more about your treatment options.

This site is not intended to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. Through this website and links to other websites, Brandon P. Donnelly, MD provides general information for educational purposes only. The content provided in this website and links, is not a substitute for medical care or treatment. You should not use this information in place of a consultation or the advice of your healthcare provider. Brandon P. Donnelly, MD is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site.