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Celebrate Fourth of July safely

By Staff
Letter to the Editor
Whether barbecuing in the backyard, enjoying a day at the ballpark or spreading a picnic blanket in the cool grass of a local park or on the hot sand of the beach – remember that a little safety goes a long way.
Start the day out right. Assemble a first aid kit – adding summer essentials such as sunscreen and insect repellent – and toss it in the picnic basket, beach bag or backpack before heading out. Then, take these simple precautions to make this Fourth of July the safest yet!
According to a recent survey by the National Hot Dog &Sausage Council, 76 percent of Americans consider the frankfurter the perfect food for the Fourth. Unfortunately, they also present a common choking risk – particularly for kids. Use care when giving hot dogs to children – cut them lengthwise and then into smaller pieces and supervise children while they eat.
The combination of warm sunshine and cool grass is a match made in heaven. With flowers in full bloom this time of year, parks are likely to be populated by winged creatures that are far from angelic if they bite or sting. Avoid walking barefoot in the grass, take time to review protection tips and be especially vigilante to avoid tick bites that can transmit Lyme disease.
Bugs aren't the only ones biting this time of year. Be alert to avoid bites by things without wings, including dogs, cats and other animals such as snakes or even jellyfish, if the celebration venue is seaside. Be sure to treat bites promptly and appropriately based on type, watch for an allergic reaction and seek appropriate medical care.
What would July 4th be without fireworks…besides quiet? As the sun sets on America's birthday, for many people the fun is just beginning.
A recent report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reveals that fireworks were involved in an estimated 9,600 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms during 2004. Nearly 70 percent of all fireworks-related injuries took place around the Independence Day holiday (between June 19 and July 19, 2004) and more than 50 percent of those injuries occurred to children and teenagers. The top three injury-causing fireworks – accounting for nearly half of all injuries – were firecrackers, sparklers and rockets.
The CPSC, with the National Council on Fireworks Safety, offers these tips for the safe use of consumer fireworks. First, only buy from an established retail outlet, never experiment with homemade fireworks and always follow the directions on the label. Second, only use fireworks outdoors, never light more than one at a time and move away from it quickly – never attempt to relight a "dud." Third and finally, have a responsible adult in charge, never give fireworks to children and keep a bucket of water handy to douse fireworks to dispose of them properly.
While chances of injury from a public fireworks display are slim according to the CPSC report, following a few guidelines can make the show safe and enjoyable for everyone. Respect monitors and ushers as well as any safety barriers set up, resist the temptation to get a closer look, leave consumer fireworks including sparklers at home and if any part of a firework falls to the ground, do not touch it. Lastly, keep pets far from fireworks displays of any kind and safe inside the house. The loud noises can hurt sensitive ears and scare animals, prompting even the most docile pet to behave erratically or run away.
Leigh-Anne Dennison
American Red Cross