The bombs bursting in air aren’t the ones Dr. Fred Mullins worries about this Independence Day.  He’s much more concerned with the ones that explode closer to earth.

“The injuries from fireworks can cover a wide range,” said Dr. Mullins, the president of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., and the Medical Director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at HCA Healthcare’s Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga. “Each year we see burns that are very minor, as well as patients who have both deep burns and traumatic injuries from the explosion of a large firework.”

Fireworks Safety

First and foremost, Dr. Mullins recommends leaving the fireworks show in the hands of experts. However, if you do decide to set off your own fireworks, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Create a “blast zone” that is away from structures, people, dry grass and other flammable items
  • Designate someone as the safety person, someone else as the shooter and someone else as the cleanup crew
  • Ensure a fire extinguisher, hose or bucket or water is nearby
  • Make sure the “shooter” is not wearing loose clothing that could ignite and follows all directions on the fireworks label
  • If the device does not have a warning and/or instructions label, do not fire it
  • Never use fireworks of any kind indoors
  • Light fireworks one at a time
  • Never throw fireworks. A malfunctioning fuse could cause the item to go off in your hand.
  • Never light fireworks held in someone’s hand.
  • Never stand over an item that does not fire
  • Remember that fireworks, especially sparklers and smaller items that stay on the ground, are still very hot, and therefore dangerous, after they have been used.

Skin Care

Another annual summer risk are sunburns. To avoid getting a potentially severe sunburn, Dr. Mullins recommends using sunscreen with at least an SPF of 35 and reapplying sunscreen every 30 minutes. It is important to re-apply and monitor your skin if you are going in and out a pool, lake or ocean.

“Some sunscreens can wash off quickly, leaving you unprotected,” he said. “That’s especially important to children and older people whose skin is thinner and more likely to burn quicker than most adults.”

Grilling Safety

A little bit of extra precaution will also go a long way toward staying safe while grilling out during the Fourth of July holiday. Safety starts before the grill is lit, Dr. Mullins said.

“Always make sure your grill is at least 10 feet away from buildings or bushes that could catch fire,” he said. “Then check your gas lines to make sure there are no leaks.”

When you are ready to light the grill, make sure to keep the lid open, and never, ever use gasoline to help fuel the fire.

“That’s a recipe for an explosion,” Dr. Mullins said. “I have seen many very severe burns from grills that exploded.”

Other grilling tips include:

  • Use utensils with long handles to stay clear of the fire
  • Dispose of hot coals properly by dousing with water and stirring the ashes.
  • Keep lighter fluid container away from grill.
  • Utility/Barbeque lighters are not safe for children and should not be left outdoors where the elements may weaken or damage the plastic.
  • Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when operating a grill.
  • Replace nicked or scratched connectors.
  • Always turn on utility light before you turn on gas or propane.
  • Always shut off propane tank valve when not in use.
  • Never use a match to check for leaks.
  • Keep gas hoses as far away from grease and hot surfaces as possible.

As the home of the largest burn center in the United States, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare, provide complex and comprehensive burn and wound care for more than 3,000 patients from across the country each year. For more information about burn care, please call 706-863-9595.