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The Dangerous 4th

In some ways, the Fourth of July is the perfect kid's holiday. Noise is central to the
celebration, and so is danger in the form of fireworks. Each year's Independence Day
festivities are preceded by warnings about potential injury from improper use of fireworks.
So it was in earlier Nebraska days. At the turn of the century, the threat was not only from
injuries, but an injury-related disease rarely seen today: "lock jaw."

In 1906, the State Medical Society appealed to the public for help in preventing deaths from
lockjaw (tetanus). "No words or space need be wasted to emphasize the folly of the use of
highly explosive fireworks, and when they are permitted to be used by children, such practice
certainly becomes a crime against which the strong arm of the law should be wielded with

"Especially deplorable, besides the crippling of many children, are the deaths from lock jaw,
from injuries by toy pistols, giant crackers and other fireworks, because most of these deaths
are owing first to the wanton practice of using deadly toys and secondly because those injured
are not immediately attended to by a competent surgeon.

"The people are especially warned that penetrating wounds, similar to those cause by a nail, if
soiled by the dust of the street or the dirt of the barn-yard are very dangerous, because the
dust and dirt of these places contain quite often the germs of lock jaw; and these germs, if
grown into a wound from which the air is excluded, will rapidly multiply and cause the
terrible disease tetanus, and almost invariably death precipitated by the most horrible

"If, therefore, law and parental discipline cannot prevent the use of toy pistols, giant
firecrackers, and other deadly fire works, then, upon injury, the child should be quickly
brought to the family physician who,knowing the great danger of punctured wounds in these
cases, will unhesitatingly and thoroughly convert those wounds into open surfaces to every
part of which outside air may have access, the only means which will, with thorough
antiseptic, prevent the growth of the lock jaw germ and hence, save precious lives."


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Last updated 14 September 2005

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