Why You Should Leave the July Fourth Fireworks Display to the Experts

MAYWOOD, Ill. — July 4th is again approaching and emergency departments across the state are already beginning to treat patients injured by fireworks.

In 2009, nearly 100 people in Illinois were rushed to hospitals with injuries caused by fireworks, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshall (OSFM). Across the United States, close to 10,000 people were injured and 11 deaths were reported, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control.

“Fireworks are basically explosives and all are capable of causing severe injuries, but even minor injuries can cause significant disability when it comes to sight and hand function,” said trauma surgeon Dr. Thomas Esposito of Loyola University Medical Center. “Even fireworks that are classified as ‘safer,’ such as bottle rockets and sparklers, are responsible for some of the most serious wounds treated by emergency physicians.”

Esposito added that over the years, trauma and burn physicians at Loyola have treated hundreds of types of fireworks-injuries, including loss of sight and hearing, loss of fingers, toes and limbs, third-degree burns, fractures, lacerations and permanent scarring.

“But there are many more people injured by fireworks who never come to an emergency department to be treated,” said Esposito, who is also a professor of surgery and chief of the division of trauma, surgical critical care and burns in the Department of Surgery, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood. “Many fireworks injuries are not reported, though, so there were probably many more.”

In addition, fireworks are responsible for more than 1,700 structure fires and about 650 vehicle fires each year, according to the OSFM. Generally, more fires in the U.S. are reported on Independence Day than on any other day of the year, with fireworks accounting for than half, more than any other cause.

“Unfortunately, drinking alcohol and engaging in risky behavior are popular activities on holidays, especially among the young. We’ve all heard the message that ‘drinking and driving don’t mix,'” Esposito said. “The same goes for drinking and setting off fireworks. If you’re too impaired to drive, you’re too impaired to set off fireworks.”

“Even minor injuries to the hands and particularly the thumbs can cause major problems with the essential activities of life, like texting and buttoning your shirt. Those are major functional losses,” Esposito added.

Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 25 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 561-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.

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