When the sun sets on Independence Day, all over the U.S. the dark sky transforms into a colorful display of fireworks. How best to enjoy it? Leave the bigger fireworks to the professionals, says Wisconsin-based family physician Ruta M. Pakalns, MD. Want to use sparklers? A 2009 report from the National Council on Fireworks Safety indicated that sparklers are responsible for 16 percent of legal firework-related injuries in the U.S. So be sure your kids are old enough and safe enough. Here, seven rules to follow.
- Children under 12 should not handle sparklers (or other novelty fireworks like snakes, poppers and pop pop snappers) if a parent or guardian is not present to assist. Even teens should be monitored, and young children shouldn't handle them at all.
- To protect everyone's toes, be sure that you and your child are wearing closed shoes if handling sparklers—no flip flops or sandals.
- Create a distance between yourself and others prior to lighting sparklers. Stand at least 6 feet away from others and light only one sparkler at a time.
- When using sparklers with others, refrain from passing around lit ones to avoid burns.
- Always keep you hands free of other items and focus on holding the sparkler at arm’s length, away from your and others' face, body and clothing. Sparklers can ignite clothing.
- When the flame on the sparkler has subsided, drop the sparkler in a canister of water to cool, since a sparkler can stay hot long after the flame is out.
- Do not attempt to relight sparklers that have already been used.
For more fireworks and sparkler safety tips visit the National Council on Fireworks Safety.