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Put It In Reverse, Terry.

This weekend is the Fourth of July, and with that inevitably comes fireworks. Remember Terry? If not, google the title of this blog. He can teach us a few lessons about firework safety. Honestly, before I was a nurse I loved fireworks, but I’ve now seen enough burns on kiddos to make me rethink how much I like them (not to mention, they wake sleeping babies and scare my dogs to death). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, last year 3,800 kids were severely injured due to fireworks – 1/3 of that number represented kids under five. And while this number may not seem high, considering firework injuries are 100% preventable, the number should be zero.

Now, I’m not a fun sucker. I know there are people out there who really love them, and if you want to buy and use them, there are definitely ways to make them safer and prevent injuries. So, below I’ve listed four tips to use this weekend and anytime fireworks are nearby.

Ditch the sparklers, Roman candles, and bottle rockets. I could catch some flack for this one because everyone loves these things. But, half of injuries to kids under five are due to these types of fireworks. Their temperature also raises to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit which means they can easily burn skin and catch clothing on fire. And, to add to this, they are extremely unpredictable. They burn quickly, and in the case of Roman candles and bottle rockets, you never know in which direction they’ll go. If you have a child that is older – maybe like a teenager – and can thoroughly understand and follow directions, then maybe you could use these. But, even then, teenagers don’t always make the best decisions. I once had two teenagers in the emergency department who had a Roman candle fight – neither of them won if you know what I mean.

So, what are good substitutes for these? For an older child, you could use glow sticks. Teach them how to crack and shake them, and let them wave them around all night. For smaller kids, or for kids that you’re worried may chew on the glow stick, give them a mini light saber. These are perfect – and who doesn’t want to feel like a jedi? You could even let them decorate a flag and wave it around.

Make sure kids are always supervised. This may seem like a pointless suggestion because every parent knows to watch their kid around anything related to fire. However, it is easy, especially at parties and in large crowds, to lose track of your child. It’s even more challenging when there’s more than one. It’s happened to me plenty of times. I’ll be at a friend’s house, Luke will be playing, I’ll turn around for three seconds, and he’s gone when I turn back around. Typically, he finds a toilet or some stairs, but the same concept applies when fireworks are involved. So, my suggestion is the same suggestion I give parents when they take their kids to the pool – always designate a “watch parent.” This means a parent is assigned the role of close kid supervision. They are constantly watching the kids and have no distractions. It also may be necessary to have more than one depending on the number of kids. With a “watch parent” present, every kid is accounted for while fireworks are being lit. This could seem over-the-top, but so is a firework burn.

Stay at a safe distance. Remember when I said Roman candles are unpredictable? So are large fireworks. There is no guarantee that after it’s lit it will shoot in the intended direction. I’ve also seen plenty of injuries from fireworks that didn’t shoot into the air at all and instead went off on the ground. For this reason, anytime fireworks and kids are in the same vicinity, they should be as far away from each other as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids be 500 feet away from a firework when it’s lit to protect hearing and prevent injury. If 500 feet isn’t possible, children should be as far away as the space allows or watch inside a house from a window.

For young kids, use noise-canceling headphones. Everyone knows fireworks are loud, but the sound can actually damage the hearing of small children. Like I mentioned above, it is recommended to stay 500 feet away from the fireworks when possible because this is considered a safe listening distance. However, if small children are going to be closer, using noise-canceling headphones is an effective way to protect their fragile ears.

There they are – tips for safely enjoying fireworks with your kids this holiday weekend. Remember, you can never be too cautious when it comes to the safety of your kiddos, so make sure everyone else knows your rules too. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July, and don't be like Terry!

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