July 4th Poses Health Hazards

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

Many people are making plans to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday. Fireworks and outdoor recreation are a part of most July 4th celebrations, but sparklers, rockets and hot temperatures pose very real dangers to adults and children. With so many health hazards out there, it’s no wonder that patient numbers increase over the holiday.

Healthy tips for the Fourth of July

Here are some important safety precautions for you and your children this Fourth of July.

95% of emergency room visits involved fireworks that Federal regulations permit consumers to use.
  • Use common sense: fireworks and sparklers should be used with caution. In the U.S. in 2005, four people died and an estimated 10,800 people were treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries [1]. Surprisingly, 95% of emergency room visits involved fireworks that Federal regulations permit consumers to use; the highest injury rates were for children aged 10 to 14 [2].
  • Say no to sparklers: it’s not safe for children to hold sparklers. Between June 18 and July 18, 2005, there were just as many injuries due to sparklers as there were due to rockets [1] !! Sparklers can burn as hot as a match and can cause clothing to catch on fire.
  • Don’t allow young children to use fireworks: the risk of fireworks injury was nearly three times as high for children ages 10-14 as for the general population [2]. Keep fireworks out of the hands of children.
  • If you’re going to use fireworks: fireworks are associated with serious injuries, including blindness, third degree burns and permanent scarring [3]. If you’re going to use fireworks, take preventive measures to reduce these risks.
    • Don’t use fireworks and sparklers indoors.
    • Obey local laws. If fireworks aren’t legal in your area, don’t use them. Not only are you breaking the law, but you run the risk of injury and, if you have children, aren’t setting a good example. Your children should look to you as a role model.
    • Light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from homes, dry leaves and brush and flammable materials.
    • Always have water, such as a garden hose or bucket, nearby.
    • The adult lighting the fireworks should always wear eye protection.
    • Fireworks and alcohol aren’t a safe combination. Just like a designated driver, have a designated shooter that hasn’t been drinking.
    • Ensure that other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Other hazards: in addition to fireworks, there are other potential hazards on the Fourth of July has other potential hazards for children that include sunburn and dehydration. Make sure your children wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Take the time to review the Highlight HEALTH Summer Survival Guide.
  • Parade safety: perhaps one of the biggest worries for parents is that small children will wander away. Hard-to-negotiate crowds can separate children from their parents. To prevent this, carry small children or push them in a stroller. If you have older children, agree on a place to meet if you become separated.

Have a fun, safe Fourth of July holiday!


  1. Greene and Joholske. 2005 Fireworks Annual Report: Fireworks-Related Deaths, Emergency Department-Treated Injuries, and Enforcement Activities During 2005. Washington (DC): U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2006 June.
  2. Hall JR. Fireworks. Fire Analysis and Research Division, National Fire Protection Association. 2007 April.
  3. Witsaman et al. Pediatric fireworks-related injuries in the United States: 1990-2003. Pediatrics. 2006 Jul;118(1):296-303.
    View abstract

About the Author

Jenny Jessen is Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH. She is also a senior writer at Highlight HEALTH.