In just a few days, Americans will celebrate our nation's independence by gathering with friends and family for food, fun and fireworks.
A few precautions can ensure that the celebrations stay festive.
Each year, an estimated 7,000 people are treated in emergency departments nationwide for fireworks-related injuries. In 2010, 3,400 children younger than 15 were injured by fireworks. Of these, more than 70 percent occurred in the weeks surrounding July 4.
Safe Kids Fayette County, led by Kentucky Children's Hospital, offers these tips to help stay out of the emergency department:
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■ Always have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby. After the fireworks are completed, soak them with plenty of water from your bucket or garden hose before throwing them away; this prevents trash fires.
■ Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
■ Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a device does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate. Put it out with water and dispose of it.
■ Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Never allow small children to play with fireworks. Sparklers burn at 1,800 degrees.
■ Choose fireworks that are legal, labeled "consumer" fireworks. These will be brightly packaged and have warning labels and instructions. Illegal fireworks are often unpackaged or wrapped in plain brown paper.
■ Read all instructions to assure safe operation of your consumer fireworks.
■ Use only outdoors, safely away from anything that can burn, at least 200 feet from buildings. Use on a flat surface, such as concrete or pavement, if possible.
■ Never try to relight or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
■ Never carry fireworks in your pocket and never shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
■ Avoid any and all areas prone to fires, including homes, dry grass, brush and trees. This year, with the extreme dry weather we are experiencing, be especially cautious.
■ As the hot weather continues, it is important to respect the heat when you are outside enjoying the holiday. High summer temperatures, compounded by dehydration, can quickly lead to heat-related emergencies.
■ Stay well hydrated, take frequent breaks and avoid the hottest time of the day, when the sun is beating down from above.
■ Extreme heat can cause foods to sour quickly. Have food out in the open only while it is being served; otherwise, store it properly out of the heat to avoid spoilage.
This year, make a special effort to keep this a safe holiday, so you can spend time with those you love and not with those in the emergency health care profession.