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Each year nearly 9,000 people nationwide visit the emergency room due to fireworks-related injuries.

U of M expert available to discuss 4th of July fireworks injuries and offer safety tips

June 21, 2011

The Fourth of July is just around the corner and that means cookouts, parties and fireworks. While fireworks displays may be fun to watch, injuries occur every year when people shoot off displays of their own. In fact, each year more than 8,800 people nationwide require a trip to the emergency room for firework-related injuries.

How bad can these injuries get and what should you do if an injury occurs? A University of Minnesota expert who has seen the worst firework injuries and can share his experiences and offer safety tips is:

Matthew Putnam, professor, Orthopedic Surgery and Trauma, University of Minnesota Physicians and Medical School

Depending on the size and type of the fireworks involved, some injuries may only involve burning on the hands or arms. But traumatic injuries from some fireworks can actually be comparable to war wounds – leaving a person disfigured or in need of an amputation.

“Injuries that result from fireworks usually involve the hands, but can also involve the face or the eyes. In the worst cases, people are wounded in all three areas, and the scope of the injuries can be shocking,” Putnam says.

Putnam says the majority of fireworks injuries occur among boys and young men. And regardless of whether the damage inflicted stems from simple sparklers or fountains, scars and lingering injuries can often last a lifetime.

According to Putnam, what can make fireworks so dangerous is a combination of gun powder and an often unpredictable fuse. Many severe injuries occur because a fuse is too short and the firework explodes almost instantly after it’s lit.

If a family chooses to ignite a fireworks display of their own, safety and supervision are paramount. If an injury occurs, Putnam said it’s best to wrap the wound in a clean, moist cloth or towel. This will protect the tissue from further damage. If the damaged body part looks bad, it’s likely that the injury is serious and someone should get the injured person to a hospital immediately.

To see the video interview with Putnam, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8dIC6F_-OI.

To schedule an interview with Putnam or to invite him for a live, in-studio appearance and demonstration, please contact Nick Hanson, (612) 624-2449, hans2853@umn.edu or Tim Holtz, (612) 626-4784, holtz074@umn.edu.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.umn.edu/news. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: Academic Health Center

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