Thursday, July 3, 2008

Health Care and the 4th

After 232 years, the fateful experiment called the United States of America is still going strong. Although our nation has been battered about by the storms of war both foreign and domestic, Americans are going to celebrate our national birthday with more vigor than ever before. There will be backyard barbecues, picnics on the lawn, family reunions, travel to historic locales, and fireworks. Oh, the fireworks! Americans love fireworks--the bigger the better. We ooh and aah every year on the Fourth of July when we see the bombs bursting in air as if we had never seen such sights before. Children scream with glee as they see the colors and hear the big boom sounds of each star burst in the night sky. "Wow, did you see that one?'' they ask. And our country is satisfied at the end of the holiday night that we have worshipped at the altar of national pride on the single most important day of the year when our patriotism hits its high water mark.

You may ask, "What does the 4th of July have to do with health care?" Alot! Every year, there are thousands of accidents involving fireworks. The National Council on Fireworks Safety wants to prevent all injuries from consumer fireworks. Sadly, each year, there are over 100 injuries reported to the NEISS reporting hospitals. Based on these actual injuries, the CPSC produces an estimate of injuries on a national basis. The estimate for calendar year 2006, based upon 261 reported injuries, was 9,200 estimated injuries. Injuries per 100,000 pounds of consumer fireworks sold was 3.4 injuries in 2006, as compared to 8.0 injuries in 1997. Thus, the injury rate has dropped by more than half in the past ten years. The rate has decreased both because of a large increase in usage and a general decrease in injuries.

The CDC has reported that fireworks can be associated with blindness, third degree burns, and permanent scarring. Fireworks can also cause life-threatening residential and motor vehicle fires. More than half of the reported injuries were burns. Burns were the most common injury to all body parts except the eyes and head areas, where contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies in the eye occurred more frequently. Firecrackers were associated with the greatest number of estimated injuries, followed closely by injuries associated with sparklers and those associated with rockets. Between 2000-2005, more than one-third of the fireworks-related deaths involved professional devices that were illegally sold to consumers.

The CDC lists how these injuries occur:
1.) Availability: In spite of federal regulations and varying state prohibitions, many types of fireworks are still accessible to the public. Distributors often sell fireworks near state borders, where laws prohibiting sales on either side of the border may differ.
2.) Fireworks type: Among the various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally in some states, bottle rockets can fly into peoples' faces and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing; and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode at close range.
3.) Being too close: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone leans over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
4.) Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely.
5.) Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
6.) Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.

Here are some safety tips as promoted by the National Council on Fireworks Safety:
Review Our Safety Tips...
USE FIREWORKS OUTDOORS ONLY.
OBEY LOCAL LAWS. IF FIREWORKS ARE NOT LEGAL WHERE YOU LIVE, DO NOT USE THEM!
ALWAYS HAVE WATER HANDY (A HOSE OR BUCKETS OF WATER)
ONLY USE FIREWORKS AS INTENDED. DON’T TRY TO ALTER THEM OR COMBINE THEM.
NEVER RE-LIGHT A “DUD” FIREWORK (WAIT 20 MINUTES AND THEN SOAK IT IN A BUCKET OF WATER)
USE COMMON SENSE WHEN USING FIREWORKS. SPECTATORS SHOULD KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE FROM THE SHOOTER. AND THE SHOOTER SHOULD WEAR SAFETY GLASSES.
ALCOHOL AND FIREWORKS DO NOT MIX. HAVE A “DESIGNATED “SHOOTER
ONLY PERSON OVER AGE 12 SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HANDLE SPARKLERS OF ANY TYPE.
DO NOT EVER USE HOMEMADE FIREWORKS OR ILLEGAL EXPLOSIVES; THEY CAN KILL YOU! REPORT ILLEGAL EXPLOSIVES TO THE FIRE OR POLICE DEPARTMENT IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
THE NATIONAL COUNCIL ON FIREWORKS SAFETY INVITES YOU TO CELEBRATE OUR NATION’S HERITAGE ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, BUT CELEBRATE SAFELY!

The Nemours Foundation also advertises using caution with fireworks. The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home — period. Attend public fireworks displays, and leave the lighting to the professionals. Lighting fireworks at home isn't even legal in many areas, so if you still want to use them, be sure to check with your local police department first. If they're legal where you live, keep these safety tips in mind:
--Kids should never play with fireworks. Things like firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers are just too dangerous. If you give kids sparklers, make sure they keep them outside and away from the face, clothing, and hair. Sparklers can reach 1,800° Fahrenheit (982° Celsius) — hot enough to melt gold.
--Buy only legal fireworks (legal fireworks have a label with the manufacturer's name and directions; illegal ones are unlabeled), and store them in a cool, dry place. Illegal fireworks usually go by the names M-80, M100, blockbuster, or quarterpounder. These explosives were banned in 1966, but still account for many fireworks injuries.
--Never try to make your own fireworks.
--Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of accidents.
--Steer clear of others — fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction. Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest.
--Don't hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body over them while lighting. Wear some sort of eye protection, and avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.
--Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush and leaves and flammable substances. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to more 50,000 fires caused by fireworks each year.
--Light one firework at a time (not in glass or metal containers), and never relight a dud.
--Don't allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
--Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash can.
--Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they'll run loose or get injured.
--If a child is injured by fireworks, immediately go to a doctor or hospital. If an eye injury occurs, don't allow your child to touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Also, don't flush the eye out with water or attempt to put any ointment on it. Instead, cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and immediately seek medical attention — your child's eyesight may depend on it. If it's a burn, remove clothing from the burned area and run cool, not cold, water over the burn (do not use ice). Call your doctor immediately.

Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed, but you'll enjoy them much more knowing your family is safe. Take extra precautions this Fourth of July and your holiday will be a blast! Have a great Holiday.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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