Let’s make safety a priority this 4th of July weekend

By Kathy Hubbard

Yay, it’s our nation’s birthday and a three-day weekend to boot! Woohoo! Fourth of July is the day that 150 million hot dogs will be eaten and the day the most beer is sold. Two-thirds of us will barbecue and 43 percent of us will go see a fireworks display or shoot them off at home.

And, check out this statistic: according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 7,000 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during the one-month special study period between June 20 and July 20, 2014.

“The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 36 percent); head, face, and ears (an estimated 19 percent); eyes (an estimated 19 percent); legs (an estimated 10 percent); and arms (an estimated 5 percent).

So, let’s start our fireworks safety discussion with sparklers. First thing to know is that sparklers can reach a temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot enough to melt metal. Do not give them to children under 12. Older children should be told to keep them outside, hold them pointing outward, away from their faces, clothes and hair. Light them one at a time and don’t ever tie them together.

Be sure to only buy legal fireworks. Store them in a cool, dry place. Don’t be stupid and try to make your own at home. Again, go outside and have a bucket of water or a hose handy in case one gets away from you.

At no time should a child be unsupervised around fireworks. Teenagers may think they’re old enough to set them off, but an adult should always be in charge. Be sure the area is clear of any inflammable materials, including holiday decorations, dry grass or brush or anything else that might become kindling.

Be sure everyone is out of range before lighting fireworks. It helps if you warn your guests that you’re going to start setting them off. Sure it’s fun to scare people with a large bang, but it’s not fun if they’re unaware that they’re walking toward the line of fire. Fireworks should never be tossed toward a person or pet.

Never light fireworks in a container, especially glass or metal. Plastic will become an uncontrollable projectile, so that’s not a good idea either. Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting. These things are pretty unpredictable you know, so you should also never try to relight one. Instead pop it into the bucket of water to make sure it’s totally dead.

And speaking of dead, don’t allow kids to pick up the leftover pieces. Use a shovel to clean up and put the detritus in a bucket of cold water before putting it into the trash.

If a serious injury does occur, call 911. Dispatch is there 24-hours a day. The emergency department is open 24-hours a day. Please don’t try to transport someone who is unconscious, leave that to the professionals. Please do not drive if you’re the victim.

If you sustain an eye injury don’t touch it, rub it or try to put water into it. That can cause more damage including blindness. Cut out the bottom of a paper cup and place it over the eye and immediately seek medical care.

A burn can be treated by running cool, not cold, water on it. Do not use ice. Remove clothing from the affected area carefully and get medical assistance as quickly as possible.

Stop the bleeding from cuts or lacerations with direct pressure on the wound. This may take a little time. Rest and elevation may help. Then clean the area with gentle soap and water to reduce the chance of infection. If the bleeding doesn’t stop take a trip to the ER.

Finally, as always, please drink responsibly. You don’t have to drink all that beer in one day. Remember that the police and sheriff’s departments are also open 24-hours per day. Oh and finally, finally, have a great holiday weekend. Enjoy that hot dog!

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or by e-mail at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.