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Health & Parenting

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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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."

Illegal and Improper Use

Improperly using fireworks, and using illegal fireworks, means you're playing with fire.

"The misuse of legal products, such as lighting several sparklers at a time, can cause serious injury," says Crampton.

Serious injury can also come from mixing fireworks with alcohol -- a recipe for disaster.

"As you get into the teenagers, and the older age groups, almost every injury is associated with drinking," says Harry Severance, MD, of Duke University. "People say, 'Let's go out on the beach, have a few beers, and blow up some rockets,' -- not smart."

And though you can't buy fireworks in some states because they're illegal, that doesn't mean people don't make their own.

"When someone says, 'I'm going to take five m80s apart and make an m1000,' you're talking about making an explosive on the level of an industrial explosion," says Severance, spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. "You're talking about an incredible blast force. If you are up close and personal to that, you can receive blast type injuries, such as shock wave damage -- penetrating injuries where the fireworks are embedded in a person; you can really hurt yourself with large homemade fireworks, and they're all illegal."

Safety Tips

The good news is that if used properly, fireworks can be safe -- and fun. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of injuries, even though fireworks usage has increased dramatically since 1976, because of improved product safety and improved consumer education.

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