Trauma Services Gear Up for Fourth of July Injuries

July 01, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Kan.— Independence Day is a time of celebrating our country's history, spending time with loved ones and, of course, fireworks. It's also a time for an increase in visits to emergency departments as a result of fireworks injuries.

In 2014, hands, arms and faces suffered the most injuries from fireworks that exploded or sparked in the wrong direction according to statistics taken in the Emergency Department at The University of Kansas Hospital. Of the 30 people who rushed to the ER, three were injured severely enough to be hospitalized. The most serious injuries included blown off digits, third degree burns and serious eye damage.

To help prepare for the upcoming holiday, the Trauma and Burn departments at The University of Kansas Hospital is ramping up their "Fast Track" response for the anticipated volume of people who will require medical attention, although the medical staff hopes their services won't be needed and encourage everyone to use extreme caution when celebrating.

Last year, patients requiring medical attention at The University of Kansas Hospital ranged in age from five to 52, with an average age of 26. Twenty-two males overwhelmingly made up the largest patient pool and suffered more serious injuries. Sparklers and mortars consistently caused the most physical damage.

If you suffer an injury related to fireworks, there are Do's and Don'ts of first aid to keep in mind. Jennifer Parks, RN, Trauma Performance Improvement Coordinator, and Kelly Dahl, RN, Education Specialist explain.

Do's and Don'ts based on fireworks-related injury type:

Sparklers might seem like a safe way for kids to celebrate but they reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which can easily cause third degree burns. If you are burned:

Don't – Put ice on the injury.This can lead to further tissue damage.

Do – Run the burn under room temperature water for relief.

If a firework fails to go off as planned, injuries can occur when it goes off unexpectedly while being examined. This can result in loss of body parts, like a finger. If this occurs:

Don't – Clean the finger or injured area.

Do – Wrap both the finger and the injured area in moist towels. Place the finger in a bag, then place it in a container with ice.

Most importantly – Get to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

Treating fireworks-related burns and injuries

Hands, arms and faces often suffer the worst injuries from fireworks that exploded or sparked in the wrong direction.

With mortars I think a lot of times what happens is they either misfire, they don't fire as quickly as they think they're going to, or they fire too quickly or they don't go off at all. And then they bend over and look into what they're lighting off and then the mortar goes off in their face. So, I think it's really important to keep a safe distance and really leave the fireworks to the professionals. So, if you have an amputated finger, you don't want to worry about cleaning that finger off or anything like that - just package it up, rap it in some moist towels, place that into a plastic bag, and then place that on ice and get to medical attention immediately.

With the sparklers I think you know it's a common misconception that sparklers are fine; it’s just a few sparks and the kids can hold on to them and they'll be just fine. The problem with sparklers is as they heat to up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so if that spark hits a child, or they grab the sparkler, that is a third-degree burn or a full thickness burn, so that can be life-changing.

If you have a burn injury, it's okay to put it under some room temperature water cover that wound and then seek medical attention immediately. You really want to avoid any ice to that area because it can actually cause more damage to the skin than the burn has already caused. It can affect them for years to come.

Emotionally, this time of year, a lot of people who have been burned or injured by fireworks, don't want anything to do with fireworks so it can be a very difficult time for them that really affects them across the lifespan not just for that period of time when they're dealing with their injury.

There's a large volume that goes to the emergency department on a daily basis, but we've highlighted a couple of times throughout the year where we anticipate a little higher volume than normal. We've implemented a process called, “Fast-track,” where there's an even deeper collaboration between the ED and the burn providers and the burn nurses, so we anticipate a little higher volume and we're prepared to evaluate all those patients.

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