Fireworks displays on the Fourth of July are as American as... the Fourth of July. But if you’re planning on lighting up the sky with your own display for friends and family this year, be sure to take proper precautions. And be doubly sure to seek medical care in the event of a serious burn.

An estimated 11,000 people are injured from fireworks every Fourth of July . Some of those can be treated at home, and some require a trip to the emergency room. Make sure you know how to be safe—and what to do in the event of an accident.

Prevention is the best medicine

The best-case scenario for a fireworks burn is to avoid it in the first place. For maximum safety, leave the fireworks displays to the experts. But if you do plan to set off your own light show, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Find a safe spot away from buildings, people, dry grass or anything flammable. Never use any fireworks indoors.
  • Designate at least one safety captain to keep an eye on safety precautions.
  • Make sure a fire extinguisher, hose or buckets of water are nearby.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes and avoid loose clothing that could ignite.
  • Read all warnings and instruction labels; if a device doesn’t have one, don’t ignite it.
  • Light each firework individually, one at a time.
  • Never light fireworks held in someone’s hand.
  • Never stand over an item that does not fire as expected.
  • Use caution walking—fireworks, sparklers and remnants remain burning hot for a long time on the ground.

Do I need to go to the ER?

If you or someone in your group does get burned by a firework or sparkler, it can be imperative to act quickly to determine if immediate medical care is needed. These three questions can help you decide if a trip to the ER is in order:

  1. How deep is the burn? If the burn seems like it’s only on the top layer of skin—for instance if it looks like a sunburn—medical assistance is probably not necessary. A good rule of thumb is that if a burn blisters within the first few hours, it’s probably deep enough that it needs medical care.
  2. How big is the burn? If the burn is larger than roughly the size of the palm of your hand, you should seek medical attention.
  3. Is the burn infected? Head to the ER if you see any of these key signs of infection:
    • Increasing pain
    • Redness
    • Swelling
    • Drainage
    • Odor