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Safety on the Fourth: Tips to avoid an ER visit

Follow these tips to for an injury free July Fourth celebration!

Today's guest blogger is Paul Glat, M.D., Director, Burn Center for Children, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

The upcoming July Fourth holiday is often filled with fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues. Bringing family and friends together for this annual celebration of summer, it's easy to forget that certain holiday traditions can be hazardous to a child's well-being.

Unfortunately, in my professional experience, July Fourth has become synonymous with burn treatment, especially among small children. While July Fourth will never be without fireworks, sparklers and backyard barbecues, it's important to recognize that these summer traditions can pose dangers. This awareness, coupled with just a few timely precautions, can help minimize the chances that your family's July Fourth holiday ends with a visit to the Emergency Room. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure a safe and fun celebration for all:

Fireworks and Sparklers

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a community fireworks show put on by professionals. If you do decide to light fireworks at home, light them in an open space a safe distance away from people, pets and houses and light only one firework at a time.  Never try to relight a "dud." Adults should be the only individuals handling and lighting the fireworks and adults should always wear eye protection when doing so. Children should be closely supervised around fireworks at all times. Having a fire extinguisher on hand allows for quick action should an accident occur.

Though sparklers may seem like an unlikely culprit for burns and other injuries, the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission reports that 40 percent of all fireworks-related accidents involve sparklers and firecrackers. Sparklers burn extremely hot – around 2,000 degrees – so it's imperative that children hold the sticks at arm's length away from their bodies and faces. Don't allow children to run while holding sparklers and never throw them. Before disposing of fireworks and sparklers, place them in a bucket of water to prevent a fire from starting after the fact.

The Grill

More than 8,700 individuals made ER visits in 2014 with thermal burns due to grilling, according to the National Fire Protection Association.  More than one third of those injured were children under the age of 5. Never leave a grill unattended. To prevent little ones from reaching up for a hot dog or a hamburger on their own, set a zone around the grill so kids can't get too close. Continue to use caution even after the barbecue is served, grills can stay hot for up to an hour. If using a charcoal grill, be sure to extinguish all coals and dispose of them properly.

Sun Exposure

The Fourth of July weekend is in the heart of the summer. A sun burn may seem temporary, but long term exposure to UV radiation can cause severe burns or skin cancer. Make sure children apply and reapply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher throughout the weekend. A general rule is to reapply every two hours and after taking a swim. Try to avoid direct sunlight and don't forget to wear sunglasses and hats.

Despite taking precautions, accidents happen. If a child is injured, remove clothing from the burned area as it may retain heat. Run cool water – not ice water – over the burn. Immediately get your child to a local emergency room or doctor. Avoid home remedies since they're often ineffective. A clean, cool and damp cloth will suffice as you transport your child to the hospital.

For more information, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's webpage on preventing child injuries.

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