Experts offer tips to stay safe this Fourth of July

East Bay

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Each night this week, the sky will light up with fireworks as people celebrate the Fourth of July.

Medical experts strongly recommend leaving the displays to the professionals but if you do plan to light fireworks off at home, be sure to take the proper precautions.

Dina Burstein, MD, MPH, the outreach coordinator of the Injury Prevention Center at Rhode Island Hospital, says first and foremost, children should not be allowed to handle fireworks.

“Even sparklers, which people think of as very safe and a great item for a young child, they actually burn at a very high temperature, close to 2,000 degrees,” Burstein explained.

Burstein says there are many incidents every year of burns to hands, face, and other parts of the body from sparklers.

Larger, commercial fireworks can cause more serious injuries.

“They explode and people actually get pieces, or shrapnel and things that embed into them and can cause some pretty severe injuries,” Burstein said.

Doctors recommend never leaning over fireworks when lighting, have water nearby and be aware of dry brush that could catch fire.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says there were at least five deaths last year related to fireworks. The victims ranged in age from 19 to 49.

The CPSC also tracks fireworks injuries. According to the agency, about 9,100 people went to the ER for injuries from fireworks in 2018.
With hot temperatures forecast this week, doctors also hope you take the necessary precautions if you’re planning to be outside.

“If you start to experience some of the early signs of a heat related illness, which may be a little nausea, headache, feeling lightheaded then you want to get into a cool location, at least in the shade. Make sure you’re well hydrated, have some water before that progresses to something more serious like heatstroke,” Burstein said. 

Last year in Bristol, at least five people were transported to the hospital for heat exhaustion during the annual Fourth of July Parade. 

A field hospital with IV drips and misting tents were set up, and at least 40 people utilized it, according to fire officials. 

Another danger doctors are warning of this summer is vehicular heatstroke, particularly among young children. 

“Parents should just never leave a child alone in a hot car, even if you just think you’re running into the for a few minutes,” Burstein said. “Even on a day where it might be cloudy, maybe not quite that hot, the inside of the car heats up very quickly and young children are much more susceptible to getting heatstroke. Their body temperature rises more quickly; they’re less tolerant of it.” 

The National Safety Council says 52 children died in hot cars in 2018, making it the deadliest year on record in the past 20 years.

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