LA CROSSE, Wis. — Independence Day has been celebrated with firework displays since the late 1770s.
Public shows are put on in large and small communities, and some families plan private celebrations as well. As
you celebrate, remember to exercise extreme caution when using fireworks, which cause injuries and deaths
In 2021, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported nine deaths related to fireworks and more than
11,500 injuries that were treated at emergency departments in the U.S. About 74% of these injuries occurred
within a four-week period around Independence Day, from mid-June to mid-July.
“Overall, about 32% of all firework-related injuries were burns,” says Drake Matuska, M.D., family physician at
Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse. “Hands and fingers are the most commonly injured parts of the body,
accounting for about 31% of cases. These types of injuries often occur when people hold lit fireworks. Sparklers
can also cause burns to hands and arms, especially in small children.”
Eyes are especially susceptible to injury from fireworks. Eye wounds account for about 14% of fireworks-
related injuries from the gunpowder, sulfur and charcoal that make up most fireworks.
“If an eye injury occurs, don’t rinse, rub or apply pressure to the eye. This may cause irritants, such as charcoal
or gunpowder, to move around the eye, leading to further damage. Instead, seek immediate medical attention,”
explains Dr. Matuska.
While a backyard fireworks display may seem fun, Mayo Clinic physicians are advising everyone to leave
them to the professionals. If you choose to include fireworks in your private celebrations, confirm the type of
fireworks that are allowed by your state and local ordinances.
Follow these safety tips when using fireworks:
Be sure to read and follow all safety information and instructions for proper use.
Keep small children away from fireworks.
Only use fireworks in an open area that is far from animals, buildings, brush or any combustible
Skip fireworks completely if your area is at a high, very high or extreme level of fire danger.
Create a safety perimeter. For ground-based fireworks like fountains, have spectators view from at least
35 feet away. For aerial fireworks, this distance should be at least 150 feet.
Keep pets indoors. This ensures their safety and reduces stress for you and your pets.
Have a bucket of water nearby to cool used sparkler wires and extinguish other fireworks. Consider
having a garden hose readily available to continually douse any accidental fires.
Never allow anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs to use fireworks.
Light one device at a time.
Never hold or place a body part over a lit firework.
Never attempt to relight a device that did not ignite the first time.
700 West Ave. S.
La Crosse, WI 54601
Once you light a firework, get away quickly. The warning labels on fireworks are there for a reason.
Soak all used and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding them to ensure they won’t
accidentally ignite during disposal.
Consider safer alternatives to fireworks like party poppers, bubbles, silly string or glow sticks.
Always call 911 in an emergency.
The 4th of July holiday week also means other types of celebrations including boating and other fun outdoor
activities. Dr. Matuska says prevention is the key to avoid a trip to the emergency department:
Consume alcohol in moderation. “Imbibing too much alcohol can lead to questionable decision-
making, slowed reflexes and false confidence – traits that are dangerous in nearly any outdoor activity
during the summer months,” says Dr. Matuska.
Never assume a campfire or bonfire is completely out. “On more than one occasion, fire-happy
campers have been known to dump gasoline or other extremely flammable liquids on fires that look like
they are out or smoldering and ended up with third-degree burns,” adds Dr. Matuska. “Children and
adults make trips to the emergency room every summer after stepping into fire pits they thought were
Always wear a helmet when biking, motorcycling, horseback riding or on an ATV. This is like
wearing a seat belt in a car – an absolute must. Riders of all kinds can sustain serious injuries in an
accident, but survival chances grow exponentially when a helmet is worn.
Be extra alert when operating a boat or personal watercraft. Watch out for other boaters, water-
skiers and swimmers. Every year, patients are brought to the emergency department after getting tangled
up in a boat propeller. And always wear a life jacket.
“I hope to meet people out on the river or at Riverfest than meeting in the emergency department,” says Dr.