Memorial Day Fireworks: Ear and Facial Injuries

About Dr. Belinda Mantle

Dr. Mantle’s practice is focused on the diagnosis and management of pediatric patients with common ears, nose and throat disorders. She pursued sub-specialty training in pediatric otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Dr. Mantle is fellowship-trained in pediatric otolaryngology and is a board-certified diplomate of the American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery.

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fireworksWith Memorial Day approaching, people are looking forward to celebrating.  One of the most common and anticipated events is the fireworks. While people recognize some possible dangers of fireworks, such as hand injuries, most do not realize there are other potential issues.  Most concerning, the risk of firework injury is highest for children ages 5 to 14 years old.

Aside from blasts injuring the hands, there are significant risks of:

  • Burns: face, ears, neck, hands, etc
  • Eye injury
  • Hearing damage
  • Tinnitus

What facial injuries occur with fireworks?

Because fireworks shoot upwards, if a blast occurs earlier than expected or if someone is too close, they may suffer severe injuries to their face.  Children are at a higher risk for these burns because they are excited by the show and may approach closer than they should.  Also, the youngest children do not fully understand the relationship between what they see in the sky and what is occurring on the ground.  This means they are not aware they should be cautious near the ground.

Facial burns can be severe and require surgery to treat. Often, the victim is left with permanent facial scars.

What do I do if someone suffers a facial burn?

Prompt, emergency medical attention is critical.  Do not apply ice to the wound. It is preferred to run the area under cool water.  You may dampen a clean cloth or gauze with cool water and apply this to the face as you are headed to the emergency room. You should request facial plastic surgical consultation to prevent permanent skin scarring.

How do hearing loss and tinnitus occur?

Hearing loss can occur any time a loud noise occurs near the ears.  This may be from a gunshot, a speaker blowing out, or something like a firework.  Hearing loss is usually instantaneous and may be temporary or permanent.

The same traumatic noise that causes hearing loss can also cause the ear to produce tinnitus, a high-pitched tone that is often irritating to the sufferer.  Tinnitus can make it difficult to concentrate, to fall asleep, or to enjoy music.  Musicians may notice pitch distortion as well.


Can the hearing return?

With prompt medical attention, there is a chance that the hearing may recover. However, it important to recognize that some injuries are permanent.  To protect yourself, do not stand close to the fireworks.  Stand a safe distance away; the show is just as good but you are much safer.

How can I safely enjoy a fireworks show?

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public firework display conducted by trained professional.

Additional Precautions to make your firework entertainment safe:

–        Children should never handle fireworks.

–        Make sure you are a safe distance from the firework ignition site.

–        Don’t forget your ear plugs. Ear plugs can be worn to protect your ears from potentially loud damaging noise.