How to stay safe during summer fireworks season


Illinois is one of a handful of states in the country banning the sale and use of consumer fireworks (e.g., firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets). But every summer, University of Chicago Medicine's Burn Center treats adults and children with injuries related to illegal fireworks and legal novelty fireworks such as sparklers, smoke bombs and noisemakers. 

A recent report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has found an increase in fireworks injuries, from 2006 to 2021. Of these injuries, 74% occurred in the weeks before and after the July 4th holiday.

With the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations, we anticipate a significant increase in burn and traumatic injuries related to the use of amateur fireworks in the Greater Chicago area. 

From minor burns to catastrophic life-changing wounds, these injuries can result in the need for multiple surgeries — including amputations and skin grafts — and require hospitalization and/or stays in the intensive care unit.

Our recommendation, first and foremost, is to avoid the personal use of any illegal or legal fireworks. If you are planning on using sparklers, noisemakers or smoke bombs, follow these precautions:

  • Only responsible adults should be handling these devices.
  • Stay more than 6 feet from the person lighting a sparkler or smoke bomb. Nearly half of all injuries happen to bystanders.
  • Light one firework at a time.
  • Move away quickly after lighting any device.
  • Hold sparklers away from the body and face. The tips of sparklers are 1,800 degrees; they should never be held by children.
  • Have a bucket of water, hose or fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Never point fireworks toward another person.
  • Never light fireworks in a container or indoors.
  • Never light fireworks, including sparklers, near anything flammable.
  • Never relight or pick up fireworks that fail to go off.

If you are injured, stop, drop and roll to decrease the burning process. Seek medical treatment from your primary care physician or an emergency room if the injury is severe.