Fireworks Safety

Last Updated October 2020 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Robert "Chuck" Rich, Jr., MD, FAAFP

Fireworks are one of many Americans’ favorite parts of summer. While it’s safer to leave the show to the pros and attend a public display, many people also love to shoot off their own. But shooting them off is a risky activity. Fireworks can cause serious burns and injuries, even death. It’s extremely important that you do everything you can to deal with fireworks safely.

Path to improved safety

Many people like to buy and set off their own fireworks. These are called “consumer” fireworks. There are many types of these. Some are more dangerous than others, but all have the ability to cause harm.

The first step you can take to keep yourself safe is to obey all local fireworks laws. States determine what is legal for you to use. In 4 states, consumer fireworks are completely illegal. It can even vary by county or municipality. So start off by knowing your local regulations.

Next, know your fireworks. Only buy fireworks from a licensed fireworks dealer. When buying fireworks, read the instructions carefully so you know what each firework will do. Some, like fountains, sit on the ground and shoot sparks into the air. Others are held in the hand and shoot flaming balls into the air. These are less predictable and are more likely to malfunction.

Once it’s time to set off the fireworks, follow these steps to keep you and your loved ones safe.

  • Never give fireworks to children. This includes sparklers. Sparklers burn at a temperature around 1,200 degrees. That’s hot enough to melt metal. They can easily burn and injure a child.
  • Always have a responsible adult supervising activities involving fireworks.
  • Light fireworks in a clear outdoor area, away from trees, buildings, or vehicles.
  • Wear safety glasses or protective eyewear when shooting off fireworks.
  • Don’t carry fireworks in your pocket. The friction could set them off.
  • Don’t light fireworks in containers, especially metal or glass ones.
  • Stand far away from other people when lighting fireworks. They can backfire or go in the wrong direction.
  • Don’t lean over a firework while lighting it. Reach out away from your body to light it.
  • Light one firework at a time. Move back quickly to a safe distance right away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at other people.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case there is a fire or other mishap.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework that doesn’t go off. Douse it in water and throw it in the trash.
  • After fireworks are done burning, douse them in water. Dispose of them in a metal trashcan to prevent a trash fire.

Things to consider

Remember your pets. They’re often afraid of the noises fireworks make. Take steps to keep them safe when lighting fireworks.

  • Don’t take your pets to a fireworks display. This includes small displays or neighborhood gatherings.
  • Put your pet in an interior room away from windows. This will dampen the sound of the fireworks.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and identification tags. If it gets scared and runs off during a fireworks display, it will be easier to find with identification tags.
  • Never shoot any kind of firework, including sparklers, near pets.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • At what age can my child participate in lighting fireworks?
  • What fireworks are the safest to set off?
  • What is the safest way to shoot off fireworks?
  • What should I do if I get burned by a firework?
  • How do I know if the burn is bad enough that I should go to the hospital?
  • How can I protect myself when lighting fireworks?