As pandemic restrictions are lifted, and the country eases back into large gatherings and social events, Dr. Benson Pulikkottil, Medical Director of Burn and Reconstructive Center at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, CO, wants to wish everyone a safe, friends-and-family-filled Fourth of July weekend.

“The warm weather is back, the long weekend is here, and it’s time to celebrate our independence,” said Dr. Pulikkottil. “As we take to the outdoors, I want to remind everyone to wear sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to avoid sun burns and sun poisoning. But, when the sun goes down, please remember to control your alcohol intake and supervise your children while grilling or handling fireworks.”

Every Fourth of July, hospitals and clinics across the country see a rise in patients with firework related injuries, a majority of whom are children and teenagers.

The mishandling or misuse of fireworks, along with improperly discarded hot debris, are among the most common hazards when it comes to burn injuries to the hands, legs, or head.

When handling fireworks remember to:

  • Set up the firework on a flat surface to reduce the risk of tipping over.
  • Educate children on proper firework etiquette: Don’t get too close and don’t touch.
  • Closely monitor children when they have sparklers.
  • Avoid re-lighting, leaning over, or picking up a “dud.” The firework is still live and has the potential to detonate.

“Fireworks are dangerous in every stage: when they ignite, when they don’t ignite, and even when they’re nothing but debris. A few simple precautions can make the day a lot safer, such as: Never throwing used fireworks into a fire, always assuming debris is hot, and dousing dud fireworks to prevent them from firing later,” he said. “And remember, it’s never a bad idea to attend a professional display instead.”

If you or a loved one suffer a minor burn this holiday, Dr. Pulikkottil advises that you:

  • Do not apply ice. Instead, cool the burn with tepid water for at least five minutes.
  • Do not apply home remedies such as butter or oils.
  • Do not use cotton balls or wool to clean the burn.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen, as needed for pain.
  • Do not burst any blisters. Instead, cover the burn in a loose fitting dry, sterile bandage.
  • Remove all jewelry from the burned area when it is safe to do so.

“When in doubt, get it checked out. A burn can worsen over the first 24 hours, progressing from a minor burn to a severe burn. If you notice blistered or charred skin, seek a burn expert immediately,” said Dr. Pulikkottil. Find more safety tips on how to avoid burn injuries at home and at work throughout the year.