Doctors Urge ‘Safety First’ After Increase in Fireworks Sales

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DES MOINES, Iowa — At-home fireworks are skyrocketing. According to a study done by Orlando Health, more than 2 in 5 Americans plan to buy fireworks this year, including 16 percent who say their purchases are because of COVID-19 cancellations.

The Iowa Fireworks Company concurs. They say sales are off the charts entering the holiday week, but with more sales, comes more calls to the police, and more trips to the emergency room.

In the month of June, the city of Des Moines has already responded to 550 calls, with more than 400 of those in just the past week. It’s happening all across the country. In New York, for example, they are reporting an over 2,000 percent increase of fireworks-related calls from the same period last year.

Local health experts say they are already seeing an increase in fireworks-related injuries as well. Iowa Ortho hand surgeon Dr. Scott Shumway said on average they see about five devastating injuries to the hand every Fourth of July season, but there are thousands more minor injuries and burns to Iowans. That’s why this year, especially, they are urging those setting off light shows to do so with caution.

“I think people with the COVID-19 situation, being at home, not going to work, or sitting around with not much to do, decided that they’re going to break out these fireworks early this year. We’ve seen a lot of firework use over the past couple weeks really. I just treated a very devastating injury to a patient just a few days ago who was using a rocket and had been drinking. It went off in his hand, D. Shumway said. “So yes, we’re seeing an increase in firework injuries this year, beyond what we’ve seen in the past.”

It’s not just the big explosives that can be dangerous. Dr. Shumway also warns parents about items like sparklers.

“Typically most of the injuries that are seen related to fireworks are burns. Sparklers are one of the main causes of burn injury around the Fourth of July. They burn very hot at 1800 degrees. We’ll see minor burns to more severe burns with sparklers. The more devastating injuries, though, that we see and that we operate on are related to the use of higher explosive devices like mortar shells rockets,” Dr. Shumway said.

Experts say to be safe while lighting off fireworks, follow these best practices:

  • Keep fireworks away from kids
  • Make sure people are out of range before lighting fireworks
  • Light Fireworks on a flat surface and away from homes
  • Have a bucket of water on hand ready to be used in an instant

Remember under Iowa state law, fireworks are only allowed between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. from June 1st – July 8th and December 10th – January 3rd. Firework use is restricted to private property only. Most cities in the metro have banned the use of fireworks outright, including Des Moines, Altoona, Clive, Johnston, Urbandale, West Des Moines, and Windsor Heights.

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