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Light Up July 4th -- Safely

Before you light up that sparkler, learn some fireworks safety tips to help you bring in Independence Day with a bang, and without injury.
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WebMD Feature

Watermelon, hamburgers, red, white, and blue, and of course, fireworks -- are all the makings of any good Independence Day party. From Roman candles to cherry bombs to bottle rockets, it's one of the few times a year that Americans feel compelled to strike a match and watch sparks fly.

While this may be amusing, setting off fireworks isn't exactly the safest way to celebrate our independence -- and in some cases it's even illegal. This year, before you light up that sparkler and start practicing amateur pyrotechnics, learn some safety tips from experts who can help you bring in July Fourth with a bang, but without injury.

Independence Day

Dating back to Independence Day in 1776, when John Adams penned a letter to his wife Abigail saying, "I am apt to believe that this day will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations," fireworks have been a part of our country's history.

More than 100 years later, there were approximately 9,700 fireworks-related injuries in 2003, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

"Because more fireworks are used on and around the Fourth of July in the U.S. than in any other celebration in the world, there is a larger concentration of injuries," says Ann Crampton, spokeswoman for the National Council on Fireworks Safety.

Fireworks Injuries

Boys, curious creatures that they are, are the most likely to be injured.

"The group that is most likely to be injured is teen boys, and I don't think that's surprising," says Crampton. "Kids that age are adventurous and they like to take risks."

Most commonly, fireworks-related injuries involve children under 14; 75% of those are boys, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The hands and fingers, the eyes, and the head and face are most frequently injured, and more than half of these injuries are burns. The culprits that cause the most injuries are: sparklers (26%), firecrackers (18%), and rockets (15%).

Kids and Fireworks

While kids are the most likely to get hurt, for parents, this means that you should never leave your children alone with fireworks -- even fireworks as seemingly benign as sparklers, which were associated with the most injuries in children younger than age 5 in 2001, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

"Close adult supervision is the most important thing that we can get out to people about safety on the Fourth," says Crampton. "Choose an adult who is reliable, responsible, and will have his wits about him at the end of the day. Have him follow directions, look at the product, see what it's supposed to do, and what its proper use is."

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