Every Fourth of July weekend, millions gather to enjoy fireworks in cities and towns across the country. However, creating your own fireworks display can be dangerous. Emergency rooms and burn centers see a significant increase in patients presenting with firework injuries in the month around July 4, said Byars Wells, MD, director of emergency medicine at Saint Joseph Mishawaka Medical Center. According to Dr. Wells, injuries to the face, head, eyes, and fingers are the most common. “The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to watch a public display as the fireworks there are handled with very strict safety protocols,” says Dr. Wells.

If people do decide to handle fireworks, there are safety precautions that can help reduce or prevent injuries. Dr. Wells offers the following tips for those handling fireworks:

Do not allow children to handle or ignite fireworks. Fireworks and sparklers, even those that are seemingly safe and simple, pose significant risks when handled by young children.

Never use fireworks while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment and reaction time.

Wear heat-safe gloves and goggles when lighting fireworks. Light one at a time, moving back quickly. Soak any non-functioning or used fireworks or sparklers in a bucket of water after use.

Ensure access to a hose, bucket of water, or fire extinguisher in case of fire, mishap, or injury.

“The majority of injuries occur when things don’t go as planned, for example when a firework or sparkler does not ignite,” says Dr. Wells. “Use extra caution in these situations. Avoid re-lighting or picking up the fireworks; do not look down at it or stand over it.”

Any burn larger than the size of your palm or affecting the eyes and face should be treated as quickly as possible by a local burn center. “Burns on the body should be rinsed under cool water — but not ice water — and only covered with a dry, sterile, nonstick bandage,” says Dr. Wells.

Dr. Wells also emphasizes the importance of honesty when seeking medical treatment for firework-related injuries. “Our job in the Emergency Department is to properly treat every individual who seeks care, regardless of how the injury occurred. It is important for patients to seek care and be honest with the medical team in the event of a firework-related injury so we can provide the best care possible,” says Dr. Wells.