By Lindsay S. Flynn, M.D.
Prevention of fireworks-related injuries to the hand is important, as even a minor injury or burn from a sparkler may cause pain and discomfort for weeks as the injury heals. As the 4th of July holiday approaches, I would like to highlight injuries associated with fireworks and provide some precautionary measures to help prevent these accidents.
Injuries to the fingers and hand most often will occur while attempting to light the fuse of the explosive device. The hand holding the device is most likely to sustain severe injury. Injured patients often describe the fuse simply burning too quickly, igniting the device before it could be released or thrown.
Burns are the most common type of fireworks-related injury. These should not be underestimated. The likely presence of bacteria and tetanus spores in the paper or cardboard of the exploding device may necessitate a course of systemic antibiotics and appropriate tetanus prophylaxis. Remnants of the explosion including gunpowder residue, cardboard fibers, charcoal, sulfur dust, and ash often make these injured patients candidates for surgical debridement and treatment.
Sparklers may seem to be a safe form of patriotic celebration, however, once lighted, these may burn for nearly a minute producing showering sparks that may reach temperatures of 1800 to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. The greatest majority of injuries from these are burns occurring to the hand, leg, and facial area.
If you do decide to partake in firework usage this holiday season, please prioritize fireworks safety.
Fireworks Safety Tips:
- Fireworks should be unpacked from any paper packing outside and away from open flames.
- Follow all warning labels and read precautionary information (if any) included on the package.
- Do not smoke when handling any type of explosive device.
- Keep all fireworks away from any flammable liquids, dry grassy areas, or open bonfires.
- Take note of any sudden wind change that could cause sparks or debris to blow away.
- Small children should be kept a safe distance from the fireworks; older children that use fireworks need to be carefully supervised.
- Keep buckets of water nearby and/or a working garden hose for any fire emergency that may occur.
- Never attempt to pick up or relight a “fizzled” firework device that has failed to light or “go off.”
- Do not use any aluminum or metal soda can or glass bottle to stage or hold fireworks before lighting.
- Never attempt to make your own exploding device. The results are too unpredictable and may be devastating.
Dr. Flynn is a board-eligible orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery, nerve surgery, and orthopaedic surgery.
Common procedures performed by Dr. Flynn include carpal tunnel release, cubital tunnel release, trigger finger release, wrist and hand fracture fixation, finger joint arthritis surgery, thumb basal joint arthroplasty, Dupuytren’s contracture release, tendon laceration repair, and wrist arthroscopy.
Dr. Flynn became an orthopaedic hand surgeon because the hand is so important for daily life, and being able to restore and preserve the function of the hand for patients, leading to improved quality of life, is extremely rewarding.
She strongly believes that the patient should be an active participant in their healthcare. Dr. Flynn will work to help patients feel comfortable while they discuss the nature of their problem as well as the surgical and non-surgical treatment options. Her goal is that by the end of a patient’s visit they will have gained a greater understanding of the diagnosis and treatment plan that works best for them.
In her free time, Dr. Flynn enjoys spending time with family, working out, kayaking, and cheering for the New Orleans Saints.