9 Essential Safety Tips for Fireworks Season

The safest fireworks shows are the ones run by professionals. But if you can’t resist lighting up sparklers at home, there are things you can do to minimize the risk of injury and death.

Medically Reviewed
fireworks rockets fourth of july
Just because a firework is legal doesn't mean it's safe.Adobe Stock; Canva

Although we all know it’s not safe to play with fire, many of us can’t resist the appeal of setting off fireworks and sparklers at our family celebrations around the Fourth of July.

Almost two-thirds of parents of school-age children have fireworks at family celebrations, and so do roughly two in five parents of toddlers and preschoolers, according to a?C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health?conducted in 2022.

There are plenty of good reasons we should leave fireworks to the professionals. Fireworks-related injuries and deaths have surged in recent years, sending about 15,600 people to the emergency room and causing 18 deaths in 2020 alone, according to a draft annual report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Two-thirds of the injuries and deaths happened in the month around July 4th, according to CPSC. And most of these injuries and fatalities happened when people set off fireworks and sparklers themselves.

“Around July 4th, emergency physicians see an increase in burns and severe injuries to hands, fingers or eyes from firework and sparkler mishaps,” says Leigh Vinocur, MD, an emergency physician in Maryland and a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

“Nobody wants to spend a holiday in the emergency department if they can help it. The best option is to leave the fireworks to the professionals, but if you choose to use your own, there are precautions you can take to make sure an injury doesn’t ruin your celebration,” Dr. Vinocur says.

Here are some precautions to keep your family safe if your celebrations include setting off your own fireworks.

1. Shop for Fireworks Responsibly

Buy fireworks and sparklers only from reputable, legal sellers, ACEP advises. Counterfeit products may be more dangerous. And items wrapped in plain brown paper may be intended only for professional fireworks displays, not home use, according to CPSC.

2. Prepare for Emergencies

Keep a fire extinguisher and a large bucket of water or hose nearby, ACEP suggests. Always soak fireworks and sparklers in water after use. Throwing them away when they’re dry can start fires — and they may be hot enough to start a fire even if they don’t look like they’re still burning.

3. Choose a Safe Location

Wide open spaces that are hard and flat are safest — dirt, sand, concrete, and stone are ideal staging areas. Avoid using fireworks too close to trees, cars, homes or other structures that might catch fire. For many people this means the backyard isn’t a smart choice.

4. Make Sure Spectators Pay Attention

Many injuries happen to people who aren’t handling fireworks and sparklers themselves, says Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, the president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Bystanders are more apt to be hurt if they’re not closely watching what happens when fireworks are set off. Fireworks injuries most often happen when users or bystanders don’t have time to get out of the way when fireworks go off too soon or move in an unexpected direction, says?Sarah Clark, MPH, the codirector of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

5. Light Up Fireworks Safely

Light them one at a time, point them away from people, and don’t attempt to reignite defective fireworks that malfunction or don’t go off, ACEP cautions.

6. Keep Fireworks Away From Kids

Young children shouldn’t use fireworks or sparklers, and they also shouldn’t be standing right next to somebody who is. Older children may be ready to be closer to the action or handle sparklers when they’re can read, follow directions, and follow basic safety rules on any other day of the year, Clark says.

7. Recognize the Risks of Sparklers

With sparklers, it’s easy to forget you’re holding a burning object and can get injured if you keep it in your hand too long, Clark says. Running or horsing around with sparklers can also cause injuries and burns when users trip and fall.

8. Know ThatLegal’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Safe’

People may be lulled into a false sense of security when they buy fireworks or sparklers that are legal where they live. Sparklers, for example, are still fireworks, and they can cause burns and other injuries, Dr. Smith cautions.

9. Know Basic First Aid in Case Someone Gets Burned

For minor burns, run cool water — not ice or freezing cold water — over the area, then cover with a bandage, Clark says. MedlinePlus offers additional tips for treating a minor burn at home. With major burns or injuries to the eyes or head, go straight to the emergency room.