Plan now to enjoy the holiday safely

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's almost enough to make you want to go back to bed.

The Fourth of July falls on a Thursday next week, an inconvenient day of the week if one wants to travel to see friends and relatives without taking time off from work.

But judging from all the safety tips from various entities crossing our desk, we might be better off not leaving the house.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center reports that it received 479 calls on glow sticks, of all things.

While they are certainly safer than burning fireworks, they are attractive for small children to chew on, and can be easily broken open. The glow sticks contain a liquid called diputyl phthalate which has a very strong chemical taste and odor and can cause irritation to the mouth. Concerned parents often call because theiir child's mouth is glowing, or they have gotten the product in their eyes.

If you use glow sticks, make sure they aren't repeatedly bent or chewed, and keep them away from pets or children under the age of three.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services warns that West Nile virus shows up every season in Nebraska, and is transmitted to people through the bite of a mosquito that picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.

The DHHS recommends using mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535, dress in long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when you're outside, avoid being outside at dusk and dawn when they're most active, and drain standing water around your home.

Nebraskans should also try to avoid ticks during their outings, as they can carry ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and Lyme disease. Wear repellent, dress in long-sleeved clothes and do frequent tick checks after being outdoors and remove attached ticks promptly with fine-tipped tweezers.

The American Red Cross sees a plethora of hazards associated with the Fourth of July holiday, as we take to area lakes, enjoy fireworks and indulge in backyard barbecues.

The safest way to enjoy fireworks, of course, is to take in a public display like the one sponsored by the McCook Optimist Club at the Red Willow County Fairgrounds. You might even consider sending part of the money you otherwise would have spent on fireworks to the McCook Optimist Club's Community Fireworks Fund, c/o Ron Smith, Treasurer, P.O. Box 272, McCook, NE 69001.

If you do set off your own fireworks, make sure you follow local laws, keep small children away, have a supply of water close by, make sure the person lighting the fireworks wears eye protection and follow other common-sense precautions.

If you're grilling some hotdogs or burgers, make sure someone is supervising the grill. Never grill indoors and keep children and pets away from the grill.

Use long-handled tools especially made for cooking to keep the chef safe, never add charcoal starter fluid after the coals have been ignited, and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

If you head to the beach, keep an eye on local weather conditions, always swim with a buddy and make sure young children and inexperienced swimmers wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Limit your exposure to direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15 and reapply often. Drink plenty of water, even if not thirsty, and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.

That last tip -- avoiding alcohol -- goes without say when engaging in any potentially dangerous activity over the Fourth of July or any other time.

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