Summer is the most carefree season. Parents relax the rules. Bedtimes are later; sleeping late is acceptable. But just because school’s out doesn’t mean it’s time to let our guard down.
Dr. Chan Badger, a family medicine doctor at Novant Health Northern Family Medicine in Greensboro, North Carolina, doesn’t see many injuries from backyard fireworks in his clinic. But there’s one he recalls from his days as a resident that he’ll never forget.
“I’ve still got a picture on my phone of a hand that's completely disfigured from a firework on the Fourth of July,” he said. “A couple of times when I was in med school and a couple of times in training, I saw hands that were blown up.”
His advice? “If you love fireworks, go to a place where experts are safely shooting them. There's no reason to shoot them off in your backyard. It's way too dangerous to risk your eyesight, your fingers and hands.”
And Badger is a doctor who meets patients where they are. He doesn’t lecture; he doesn’t dictate. But he doesn’t mind saying that sparklers, firecrackers and bottle rockets have no place in the hands of novices.
There's too great a risk for injury and even death. About 10,000 injuries and 12 fireworks-related deaths were reported in 2019, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Before allowing your kids to handle fireworks, parents should know these facts:
- During that 30-day summer period when most injuries occur, sparklers were the No. 1 cause of injuries.
- Sparklers are not toys. They are red hot metal rods. Many burn at 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals.
- The sparks can cause burns and eye injuries.
Confetti poppers, glow sticks and bubbles are safer alternatives.
Remember COVID-19 precautions for holiday gatherings.
Even though COVID-19 is receding, I think we need to be pushing for folks to get vaccinated. That’s the most important thing. And for those who are planning gatherings this summer, I would still try to do it outdoors, if possible. That's still the safest way to gather.
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Besides injuries from fireworks, what are some other typical summertime dangers?
Sunburns are the biggest or among the biggest.
Severe sunburns are incredibly frequent this time of year. A couple of times every summer, I’ll see someone who’s got a brutal sunburn. And I know the appeal having a tan has to some people. I have a 17-year-old daughter. She got burned and then got sun poisoning the next day when we were on a family trip this February – despite all my warnings. It’s just so easy to put on sunscreen and avoid getting a bad burn.
What else do you see this time of year?
Bug bites. Bee stings. Ticks – tick-borne illness is a huge thing to watch for. Ticks are prevalent in our area. If your kids have been out all day playing in the neighborhood, do a full body check on them on a nightly basis. The less time you have a tick adhere to the child, the fewer the complications. You want to get the tick off them before it becomes embedded.
And Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the big thing that could result from a tick bite, right?
Lyme disease is bigger. It’s rare – but it can be very serious. In my 22-year career, I've ordered maybe 2,000 Lyme tests, and I've had three patients that had Lyme disease. It's just incredibly rare, but Lyme disease can make a person very sick.
And Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose, right?
Yes. The symptoms could be related to so many things. Fatigue is one, and it’s easy to chalk that up to just not getting enough sleep. It affects a lot of different body parts; it's definitely one of the stranger ones from an infectious standpoint.
You mentioned bee stings.
Yes, and that’s usually a progressive thing, as it is for almost any allergy. You must have some exposure to it first. Let’s say you have a mild reaction after the first time you’re stung – some swelling, itching or a rash all over your body. If you’re allergic, generally, the reaction just escalates.
And so, if you have a child who has had a bad reaction to a bee sting, it’s important to have liquid Benadryl or something like that around that you could give pretty quickly in case they get stung again – because the next reaction is likely to be worse.