Kaboom Nation: Enjoy The Fireworks But Beware — Especially Boys


Everyone loves fireworks, and I hate to be a whiner, but parents should be mindful as we enter into high-pyrotechnics season. Apparently, parents of school-age boys should be most wary, based on statistics from Boston Children's Hospital:

--Approximately 58 percent of all fireworks-related injuries are burns that usually occur to the hands, head, and eyes. The majority of fireworks-related injuries (75 percent) occur during July 4 celebrations.

--Boys, especially between the ages 10 and 14, are at the highest risk of fireworks-related injuries. Children ages 4 and under are at the highest risk for sparkler-related injuries.

--The most common causes of product-related thermal burn injuries among children ages 14 and under are hair curlers, curling irons, room heaters, ovens and ranges, irons, gasoline, and fireworks.

Indeed, according to a study of fireworks-related injuries in children 19 and under from 1990-2003, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, the demographic most at-risk is a 10-year-old biy:

An estimated 85,800 pediatric fireworks-related injuries were treated in US emergency departments during the 14-year study period. Injured children had a mean age of 10.8 years, and 77.9% were male.

Fireworks users accounted for 49.5% of the injuries, whereas 22.2% of the injuries were to bystanders; however, user status could not be determined in 28.3% of cases.

The overall fireworks-related injury rate decreased significantly during the study period, but subgroup analysis did not indicate consistent declines among all ages and types of fireworks.

Injuries were most commonly caused by firecrackers (29.6%), sparklers/novelty devices (20.5%), and aerial devices (17.6%). The most commonly injured body sites were the eyeball (20.8%), face (20.0%), and hands (19.8%), and the most common injury type was burns (60.3%). Approximately 91.6% of all children with fireworks-related injuries were treated and released from hospital emergency departments, 5.3% were admitted, and 2.3% were transferred to another institution. Bystanders accounted for 13.3% of admitted cases and 20.6% of transferred cases.

CONCLUSIONS. Consumer fireworks cause serious preventable injuries among pediatric fireworks users and bystanders in the United States. Parents should be advised to take their children to safer public fireworks displays rather than allowing consumer fireworks to be used by or near their children. A national restriction of consumer fireworks, in accordance with the policy recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, should be implemented to reduce the burden of fireworks-related injuries among children.

With that in mind, Happy Independence Day!

This program aired on July 4, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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