Stay safe this Fourth of July

Published 5:42 pm Saturday, June 30, 2018

People are making red, white and blue plans filled with sunshine, grilled meats and sparklers for Fourth of July this Wednesday.

Officials, in the meantime, are warning partygoers to stay smart this Independence Day, especially around the holiday’s explosive trademarks.

The Suffolk Fire Marshal’s Office reminded citizens in a press release this week that the use and sale of fireworks in the city is prohibited. The risks are numerous, whether it’s blast injuries and burns from firecrackers or someone getting hit in the face by a flying bottle rocket.

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Dr. Carl Wentzel at the Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View emergency room said his ER has seen many rocket-induced eye injuries around the holiday in years past.

“Even something as simple as a sparkler can get hot enough that it could burn or melt certain types of metal, and the sparks coming off of it can cause burns as well,” Wentzel said in a phone interview.

In 2015, emergency rooms throughout the country treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks-related injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association, and children 15 years old and younger accounted for one-quarter of those injuries. Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires.

Wentzel said that people with burns should look for blisters or breaks in the skin that mark more severe injuries that require immediate medical attention, as opposed to the simple redness and swelling of first-degree burns.

Officials are urging citizens to avoid do-it-yourself fireworks and enjoy a public display like the Stars and Stripes Spectacular at Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina.

“The safest recommendation is to just avoid consumer fireworks and leave it to the professionals,” Wentzel said.

Roman candles aren’t the only heat risk this Wednesday. The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny Independence Day with a chance of thunderstorms and showers and a high of 90 degrees. Wentzel recommended that people move their celebrations indoors between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

People will also need to stay hydrated — the kind of hydration that comes from a water bottle, not a beer can.

“Drinking alcohol actually dehydrates the body, so if you are drinking alcohol, then you’re going to need to drink some water to compensate for the dehydrating effects,” Wentzel said.

It’s also crucial to keep an eye on the very young and very old when it gets hot, Wentzel said. Both infants and the elderly have trouble moving out of the sun and can get overheated very quickly. The same goes for any pets.

“This time of year, we see a lot of elderly folks confined at home and if their air conditioning goes out and they can’t move to a cooler place, they can get in trouble very quickly,” Wentzel said. “A lot of times elderly people are also on medication that can alter their sense of temperature.”

The temperature should also be considered when you’re setting up the buffet tables on the grass. Wentzel said food poisoning and other food-related illnesses can occur if food is left in the heat, especially mayonnaise and other egg-based products.

“It can quickly spoil in high temperatures,” he said, with naturally-growing bacteria moving very fast.

Make sure that your grill is cleaned and in good, working condition for an afternoon of cooking and use only appropriate lighter fluid.

“Gasoline and kerosene are huge risks and probably some of the worst burn injuries we see this time of year,” he said.

Staying safe this Wednesday boils down to being mindful and aware of your surroundings mixed with good judgment, whether you’re at the fireworks show, in your backyard or enjoying the holiday by the water. Wentzel also emphasized to be mindful of children in water-related circumstances, especially at the pool.

“We’ve already had a couple cases this year of small children falling into a swimming pool and having a near-drowning type of experience,” Wentzel said. “It’s that time of year when people are out there enjoying their pool, but they’ve got to be smart about it.”