Fireworks Safety: Tips for Parents
Fireworks can be fun, festive—and very dangerous. Here’s how to keep your family safe.
By Katie Sweeney
Fireworks have long been a popular part of the Fourth of July. But while fireworks are bright and festive, they can also be dangerous—for children, teens and even adults.
According to SafeKids Worldwide, more than 3,000 children under the age of 15 are sent to emergency departments each year in the U.S. because of fireworks. Fireworks can cause serious burns, eye injuries, lost fingers, fractures, other traumatic injuries and even death.
So how can you stay safe—and still have fun? Here’s what parents need to know.
The best way to keep your family safe is to watch a public fireworks display. By leaving the lighting to the pros, all you have to do is enjoy the show. Many shows in the L.A. area have been cancelled for 2020, but if you do go to a public event, remember to wear a mask, practice physical distancing and clean your hands to help stay healthy.
Obey the law
Many cities outlaw any and all home fireworks. For example, consumer fireworks are illegal in the city of Los Angeles and in all unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.
Check with your city or local fire department to learn the laws in your area.
Watch out for firework ‘games’
- Some kids play “games” with firecrackers—holding a firecracker until the last second, then throwing it. This can cause devastating hand injuries. (Firecrackers are illegal in California.)
- Older kids, teens and young adults may try to play with bigger or illegal fireworks. This is also extremely dangerous.
If you choose to use legal fireworks, be sure to handle them with extreme care and caution—before, during and after lighting them. Even fireworks labeled as “safe and sane” can cause severe injury.
Follow these tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Buy only legal fireworks and store them in a cool, dry place. (Legal fireworks have a label with the manufacturer’s name and directions.)
- Choose an open, level outdoor area—away from people, homes and dry brush.
- Wet down the area with a garden hose before lighting fireworks.
- Remind children never to point or throw fireworks at another person and to keep fireworks away from their face, hair and limbs.
- Appoint a designated, sober adult to light fireworks. Do not handle fireworks if you have been drinking alcohol.
- Protect pets. Their ears are very sensitive, and they can get loose quickly and even injured. Keep them locked up inside, out of harm’s way.
- Have an adult supervise. Never give fireworks to young children.
- Follow labeled directions.
- Wear eye protection.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby.
- Light one firework at a time—then quickly back away to a safe distance.
- Never re-light a “dud” firework. Do not pick up a firework that did not fully ignite, and do not walk up to it to investigate.
- As each firework burns out, soak it using a hose or bucket of water.
- Soak all used fireworks with water.
- Place them in a covered fireproof container located outdoors, away from buildings and brush.
Handle sparklers with care
Sparklers can cause serious burn injuries. They can reach nearly 2,000 degrees, which is hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never give a sparkler to a child younger than 6.
- Closely supervise any child under 12 with a sparkler.
- Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Wear closed-toe shoes to prevent accidental foot burns.
- Consider using colorful glow sticks instead of sparklers.
In case of injury
Immediately take any injured child to a doctor or the emergency department.
- Eye injury. Don’t touch, rub or flush out your child’s eye. This may cause more damage. Instead, cut out the bottom of an empty paper cup, place it around the eye and immediately seek emergency medical attention.
- Burns. Remove clothing from the burned area, except for any clothing stuck to the skin. Run cool (not cold) water over the burned area and lightly apply a gauze bandage.
Do not apply ointments, butter or other remedies on the burn. Seek emergency medical care if the burned area is large, looks infected (swelling, warmth, increased redness, increased pain or pus) or involves the face, hands, neck, feet, joints or genitals.
Remember, it’s best not to use home fireworks at all, even if they’re legal. Watch a public fireworks show instead while observing COVID-19 prevention guidelines, and keep your family safe while enjoying the fun.
Injury Prevention Program
The Injury Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is a nationally recognized program that provides education and community resources to help keep kids safe. To learn more, visit CHLA.org/InjuryPrevention.