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Jul 1, 2008

Fourth Of July Health Hazards

Fourth of July is a time for picnics, parades, and of course, patriotism. But for many Americans, the holiday ends very differently than it begins—with a terrifying trip to the emergency room. In addition to common culprits like fireworks and grilling, Independence Day injuries often arise from seemingly safe sources, such as foods, drinks, and fun in the sun.

Whatever your plans this holiday, beware the following three health hazards.

Fireworks: fireworks account for an estimated 10,000 emergency room visits every year, and over two-thirds of these accidents occur during June and July. What's more, firecrackers, rockets, and even sparklers can cause permanent damage to the hands, head, and face, as well as blindness. The best policy? Leave the fireworks to the pros—and focus on finding a safe spot where you can enjoy the display.

Grilling: Everyone loves outdoor cooking, but backyard-grilling accidents cause more than 2,000 fires, 300 injuries, and 30 deaths in the United States annually, the Insurance Information Institute reports. To prevent accidents at your holiday barbecue, check your grill hoses for cracks, brittleness, sharp bends, holes, and leaks. Always keep propane gas containers upright, and move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. In addition, keep flammable liquids, like gasoline, away from the grill at all times.

Insect Bites: Insects may seem like a minor inconvenience, but in some cases, bites and stings can cause life-threatening reactions. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the pesky critters from spoiling your Fourth of July fun. Wear insect repellent with 10 to 30 percent DEET, reapply it after swimming or sweating, and check yourself regularly for ticks. If you're allergic to bee stings or spider bites, keep an epinephrine kit handy. Be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you experience serious symptoms following a sting or bite, such as shortness of breath, fever, chills, redness, excessive hives, muscle cramps, weakness, nausea, or vomiting.