Five top tips to avoid fireworks & sparkler hand injuries
Ian McNab, Member of BSSH
05 November 2018
Watching fireworks is great fun and best done at a safe distance from a display organised by professionals. If you do organise your own display, it is essential that is run by a single responsible adult and that you follow all the general safety instructions (see www.fireservice.co.uk). Unfortunately, every year many children and adults are injured by fireworks and sparklers.
To prevent hand injuries, BSSH suggests:
- Before you light that first sparkler make sure there is a bucket of water ready to drop it into at the end. Other than a sparkler, never hold, or attempt to throw a lit firework, or a firework that appears to have failed to ignite – they can literally blow your hand off.
- Wear thick (leather) gloves, non-flammable clothes and if possible protect your eyes when handling all fireworks including sparklers.
- Sparklers are not suitable for children under five years old. Older children should be supervised closely at all times, with one lit sparkler at a time, per supervising adult.
- Sparklers must be held at arm’s length and the sparkler holder, with their supervising adult, must be standing at least 1 metre away from everyone else.
- Sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil and stay hot for a long time, so never touch anything other than the handle and have a bucket of cold water ready to put the hot end into, once the sparkler has gone out.
- If someone does burn themselves: stop the burning process immediately (e.g. dousing or smothering the flames)
- Remove rings, jewellery or clothing near the burn (unless they are stuck to the burnt skin and removing them will cause damage)
- Cool the burn as soon as possible with cold running water for 20 minutes (avoid ice, iced water, creams and grease e.g. butter)
- Keep the person themselves warm to avoid hypothermia (a risk when cooling large burns, children or older people)
- Cover the burn with a layer of cling film, or put a burnt hand in a clean plastic bag (avoid tightly wrapping a limb)
- Give paracetamol or ibuprofen as pain relief (according to the dose instructions), elevate the burnt part to reduce swelling (if the face or eyes are burnt sit the person upright).
Having administered first aid, you will have to decide if the injured person requires medical treatment. They should be taken to the local hospital emergency department, for assessment and treatment, if the burn is: large or deep (bigger than the person’s own hand); of any size with white or charred skin; burns on the hands, face, arms, legs, feet or genitals that cause blisters; and all electrical and chemical burns.
If someone has sustained a major burn injury, has inhaled smoke or fumes, or has sustained a major blast injury they will need emergency medical attention. Once stabilised at the hospital, they may also need a specialist hand surgeon to assess whether or not surgery is required and it may then also require several months of hand therapy to recover from the injury.
For more advice on burns, please see: www.nhs.uk/conditions/burns-and-scalds/treatment/
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