With the Fourth of July around the corner and summer trips in store, I thought it a good time to put on my "safety nag" hat, in the attempt to spare you a trip to our Emergency Department.

The number one reason you might be spending some time with us in the near future is due to the misuse of fireworks. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were involved in six deaths and an estimated 8,700 injuries treated in U.S. hospital Emergency Departments. Most of the deaths were due to homemade firework or illegal use of commercial fireworks.

The bulk of fireworks-related injuries were to males, representing 74 percent of the total injuries. Children and young adults under age 20 constituted 46 percent of the fireworks-related injuries and on Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fire.

I see primarily three types of injuries from fireworks. Because of the rapid expansion of explosive material, hands can be mangled if closed over or covering the explosive. Tearing of flesh, as well as penetration by foreign matter can also occur with the projectile form of firework. And, finally burns from the extrame heat put off by chemicals in the mixture.

It is important to clean these wounds as quickly as possible and cool with ice to stop the burning and swelling that can result. If the injury is to the eye, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

So, if you insist on designing your own display this Fourth, do so with eye protection, keep the children a safe distance from the explosives and avoid alcohol consumption.

Other summertime issues -


This mundane weekly task can become tragic. Minimize your chances of hitting debris by checking your yard for potential projectiles. Make sure the kids and pets aren't out and don't even think of putting your hands anywhere near a mower's chute until the engine has come to a complete stop.

Mosquito/tick protection:

In addition to being a major annoyance, mosquitoes can carry diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis and West Nile virus to humans and animals. Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease.

Use insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent insect-related diseases.

The current American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation for children older than 2 months, is to use repellents containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age.

Poison ivy/oak treatment:

There are several very good topical treatments for this immune reaction to the oils of these plants – if you use them early, within an hour or two of exposure. They can be expensive but single applications typically do the trick. More serious reactions may require steroids from your doctor.


Every year we read about children or pets dying after being left in a hot car. Don't fool yourself into thinking you'll just "run in real quick." A car can become an oven within minutes. If you can't take the kids or pets in while you shop, leave them at home. Be aware that some medications (especially a lot of high blood pressure medications) impair the body’s ability to tolerate heat exposure.

Sun exposure:

The best defense against cancer-producing ultraviolet radiation exposure is covering up, including hats and sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Seek shade whenever possible and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

When that's not possible to avoid sun exposure, use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater that protects against UVA and UVB rays. This should be applied early and often – every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. Don't think you can apply it once and you're good for the day. Mild sunburn is best treated with cool compresses to the affected area, while more severe burns may require steroids from your doctor.

Be aware that certain medications, such as tetracycline make you more prone to sunburn. Here's hoping your summer plans include safety plans for the best possible outcome.

Dr. Kenneth Colaric is an Emergency Medicine physician at St. Mary's Medical Center and can be reached at 816-655-5472.