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MU burn surgeon stresses firework safety on July Fourth

A burn surgeon with MU Hospital shared important safety tips when using fireworks. (MU Health Care)

Fourth of July is meant to be a celebration, and yet, every year mid-Missourians end up in the ER with firework injuries.

Jeffrey Litt, DO, is medical director of the burn and wound program at University of Missouri Health Care. He sees people injured by fireworks and sparklers come into the hospital every year around Independence Day.

“Some of the injuries are quite serious,” Litt said. “Patients come in with burns to their face, hands and torso that can require extensive treatment including surgery. These burns cause severe pain as well as scarring that can not only be aesthetically displeasing, but can profoundly limit a patient’s range of motion for life.”

Litt, who also is an assistant professor of surgery at the MU School of Medicine, offers several suggestions to help prevent fireworks-related injuries:

• Only use legal, approved fireworks.

• Have a water source nearby, like a clean bucket of water.

• Have a second bucket of water or sand to collect finished fireworks, which are often still hot.

• Only set fireworks off on level ground.

• Do not light a firework while it is still in your hand.

• If a firework is lit, then goes out before going off, do not try to relight it.

• Spectators should stay at least six feet from the firework display

• Use appropriate safety gear, including protective eye wear.

• Never place your body directly over a firework when lighting the fuse.

“Fireworks are far more dangerous than people realize,” Litt said. “Sparklers, for example, are the hottest fireworks available, and we give them to kids. They get up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. If you touch something that hot, you will get a severe burn in a fraction of a second.”

Litt says he knows Americans will always want to celebrate July 4 with fireworks. The safest way, he says, is to go to one of the local fireworks shows organized by professionals.

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