July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays. It embodies the spirit of family, reminds us of our roots as a country and provides a day filled with fun and good food. Unfortunately, the weekend is also often a big one for emergency rooms across the country that see a large number of burns from fireworks and grills. So in an effort to keep you and those you love out of the ER this weekend, I’ve gathered a few safety tips to help get through the holiday.
Leave the Big Stuff to the Professionals
I used to set fireworks off as a kid so I understand the draw of lighting something on fire and seeing it explode. As fireworks technology has progressed, though, it’s become possible to make fireworks for the public that are close to professional grade. That means a bigger, more exciting display, but also a much bigger potential for things to go seriously wrong. If you’re going to buy fireworks, stick with small ones that you could easily manage if something went wrong. If you’re looking for a bigger display, head to a professional show.
Set Up Your Fireworks Properly and Avoid Burns
If you do buy fireworks, make sure you read the instructions carefully before you use them. It sounds silly, but people are burned every year from setting up fireworks backward or from lighting the wrong part. Make sure you set them up in an area with a lot of space and have a large bucket of water or a hose nearby to put out any fires that might crop up. Make sure only adults are dealing with the fireworks and that anyone not lighting is standing well away. Avoid disaster by thinking about what could go wrong and planning for it.
The best way to avoid burns is to cover up vulnerable skin. That means using heavy gloves and protective eye gear and wearing long pants, long sleeves and close-toed shoes. The weather might be hot, but you’ll be thankful for the protection when it keeps you from getting burned.
What to Do if You Get Burned
If you do get burned, what you do next depends on how bad the burn is. There are three levels of burn. Here’s how they’re different and what you should do for each.
- First-Degree Burns. These burns involve only the top layer of skin. The burned area is red, painful and sometimes swollen. In general, these burns don’t need medical attention unless they involve most of a person’s body. Cool the burn with cool water and take off any rings, watches or other constraining items since burns often swell and these items can cut off blood flow. Use a moisturizer to help keep the skin moist and take pain killers to control the pain.
- Second-Degree Burn. These burns are deeper and cause blistering of the skin in addition to the pain and swelling seen in first-degree burns. The color can also be red, white or splotchy. If these burns are small, they probably don’t need medical attention and can be treated like first-degree burns. Do not try to pop the blisters since the skin underneath can become infected. If the blisters are large, you’ll likely need medical attention to deal with them.
- Third-Degree Burn. These burns penetrate all the way through the skin to the underlying fat and are the most severe kind of burn. The skin can look either charred or a pasty white. These burns are always serious and always require immediate medical attention. Do not use cold water on these. People can lose heat rapidly through serious burns, which will be worsened by the water. Keep the burned area elevated to reduce swelling and cover it with a cool, moist bandage or clean cloth. Get to the emergency room immediately.
You should never use petroleum jelly on any burns. This can trap moisture against the skin and increase risk of infection. For major burns that involve large areas of skin or that are severe, call 911. The most important thing you can do in these situations is get a person to safety, remove any restrictive clothing or jewelry and protect the burn. If you have any doubts about the severity of the burn, go to the doctor and have it looked at.
Enjoy the weekend and have fun with your family and friends!