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Hand Experts Warn Consumers: Practice Common Sense this Fourth of July
“Dud” Fireworks Cause Serious Injuries
BALTIMORE – (June, 2012) - When fireworks victims with traumatic hand injuries arrive emergently at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital’s Curtis National Hand Center, they tend to make the same claim. “They thought it was a dud,” reports Dr. Raymond Wittstadt, attending hand surgeon.
Too often, patients arrive with such devastating injuries, including amputations, there is little left to repair.
While some fireworks injuries can be treated, hand injuries and hearing loss often result in permanent, irreparable damage. Hand injuries usually affect the dominant hand, and explosions can result in fingers torn from the hand or large areas of the palm being ripped apart, leading to significant damage to nerves and tendons.
"Even the most skilled surgeons cannot reattach fingers that have been blown off, when there is little to reattach to, " said Dr. Wittstadt. "Unfortunately, the finger is usually obliterated and there is nothing to work with. The key to safety,’ he adds, “is common sense and awareness. And we’re seeing that stressing prevention through the media has had an impact. Injuries are decreasing.”
In fireworks safety studies compiled by health organizations and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than half of all fireworks injuries are to the hand, and children are the most common victims. Even sparklers burn at about 1800 degrees.
“People pay a very high price for this type of entertainment,” Dr. Wittstadt added. “It’s really best to let the professionals handle them.”
The hand and extremity experts of Curtis National Hand Center stress these important safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:
- Use fireworks outdoors only.
Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
Always have water handy. (A hose or bucket).
Only use fireworks as intended. Don't try to alter them or combine them.
Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.
Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated shooter."
Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
Do not ever use homemade fireworks of illegal explosives: They can kill you! Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department in your community.
Watch a fireworks safety demonstration by the Maryland State Fire Marshall's office.