Kristi McElwee

Kristi McElwee

The Fourth of July should be a day of celebration, spent with family, friends and community, just not in Polk Medical Center’s Emergency Room.

With sparklers and non-explosive fireworks legal in Georgia and other varieties readily available across state lines, there’s the temptation to host private Independence Day celebrations, but the risks outweigh the potential for fun.

We have to remember, though, that fireworks are not toys. When not used properly, the risk for injury is significant. While the potential for severe injury is there, even minor injuries can cause serious functional problems, particularly when talking about eyes, fingers and hands

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that hands and fingers account for 32 percent of reported injuries caused by fireworks, with injuries to the head and eyes making up 19 and 18 percent of firework-related injuries, respectively.

In addition to the physical risk, fireworks-related injuries are costly. A multi-state study found that the total cost for all injuries caused by fireworks was in excess of $1.4 million.

There’s no question that the safest way to celebrate the fourth, especially if you enjoy fireworks, is to attend a community display, but if you choose to have fireworks at home, here are some tips to help you have a safe celebration:

♦ Use only legal fireworks and read and follow all directions.

♦ Never approach a fireworks device after it has been lit, even if it appears to have gone out. It may explode unexpectedly.

♦ Make sure the area where you have fireworks isn’t too dry.

♦ Have fire extinguishers and water hoses within easy reach, but always call 911 immediately if a fire starts.

♦ Give children glow-in-the-dark wands and noisemakers instead of firecrackers and sparklers. Teach children about the dangers of fireworks.

♦ If someone is injured by fireworks, summon medical help immediately.

Have a happy and healthy Fourth of July from everyone at Polk Medical Center.

Kristi McElwee is the Director of the Floyd Polk Medical Center Emergency Department.