Experts: Don't get too fired up this Fourth of July
Independence Day: Fireworks, alcohol can be a dangerous mix
Dr. Rock Ferrigno has a special holiday message: "You should think twice about lighting any kind of fireworks," said Ferrigno, chairman of Bridgeport Hospital's emergency department. "You're probably the one who's most likely to come in with their hand blown off."
With the Fourth of July just around the corner, Ferrigno and other doctors in the region know they will see injuries among those who attempt to take pyrotechnic celebrations of the nation's independence into their own hands. Ferrigno said he expects about 30 burn injuries in Bridgeport's emergency department over the Fourth of July week.
"I hope none of them are severe," he said.
Nationwide, fireworks are a major cause of fires and injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association, an international advocacy group. In 2011, the most recent year for which the association had numbers available, fireworks caused about 17,800 reported fires, and hospital emergency rooms treated about 9,600 people for fireworks-related injuries. The majority of injuries are to the extremities, but injuries to the head, including the eyes, are also common.
The fire protection association also reports that more U.S. fires are reported on Independence Day than on any other day of the year. Fireworks are the most common cause of those blazes, accounting for 40 percent of them.
Though most kinds of fireworks are illegal for private use in Connecticut, there are still a fair number of fireworks-related injuries and fires in the state at this time of year, said Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance. Under Connecticut law, the only legal fireworks are sparklers and fountains containing no more than 100 grams of pyrotechnic mixture per item. These can only be used by people 16 and older. Even these legal fireworks can be dangerous, Vance said, particularly when used by young children.
"It seems cute for a little one to hold a sparkler in their hand, but people might not realize that that has the potential to cause severe burns because the sparkler burns very, very hot," he said.
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Advice from area experts on staying safe:
Know the laws: In Connecticut, most fireworks are illegal for private use. Only sparklers and fountains containing no more than 100 grams of pyrotechnic mixture -- which are non-explosive and non-aerial -- are legal. However, even these are prohibited for those younger than 16.
Leave it to the professionals: If you're eager for fireworks, go to one of the many professional, public displays throughout the region.
Swim safe: Never swim alone. Always go swimming with a partner and let those on shore know where you are going to be.
Watch your children: Even if there are lifeguards present at your local pool or beach, always keep an eye on your children while they swim. Never assume someone else is watching.
Drink responsibly: If you're swimming, driving, boating or doing something else potentially dangerous, you should probably abstain.
Eat (and cook) responsibly: To keep food safe, it's crucial to keep it at the proper temperature. The state Department of Public Health recommends keeping cold foods below 45 degrees and hot foods above 100 degrees.
Dr. Frank Scifo, medical director of urgent care for St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, agreed. "I think it's incumbent on parents to assess the safety of the situation" where fireworks are concerned, said Scifo.
Of course, fireworks aren't the only Independence Day safety hazard. Drunken driving accidents, food poisoning and drowning are of particular concern during this holiday weekend.
It is a popular time to head to the beach. Despite the week's run of rainy weather, beaches at state parks are expected to be open Thursday, said Dwayne Gardner, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Gardner said there has been an average of two drownings a year at state parks over the past five years. To avoid incidents, he recommended using common sense: stay within designated swimming areas, don't drink alcohol when swimming, never swim alone and keep a close eye on children while at a pool or beach.
"Bottom line is, we encourage everyone to take advantage of the many swimming and other recreational opportunities our state parks have to offer, but emphasize the importance of using common sense and being cautious while swimming," Gardner said.
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