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Campfires are a staple of summertime. Stock image by Peakpx

Summer is here and you’ve probably got plenty of celebrations, barbecues, road trips, and family fun planned. Don’t let a preventable injury get in the way of enjoying all the season has to offer, consider the following tips to help stay injury-free and out of the emergency room.

Enjoy fireworks safely

Everyone enjoys the display of fireworks, but according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injury in the month of July. When it comes to fireworks:

Only use legal fireworks. Know the laws where you’re at and always use fireworks with extreme caution. When in doubt, leave it to the professionals. Display fireworks are still only to be used by professionals with a permit from the local municipality.

Never let children light fireworks. Supervise kids when they play with sparklers because although they may seem harmless, they can burn at temperatures up to 1000° F and can easily cause burns or other injuries.

Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of a fire. Soak all of your used fireworks in the bucket of water before throwing them away.

Never point fireworks at another person. This may seem like common sense, but even pointing it toward someone in a joking manner may put them at risk if the fireworks explode.

Consider going to a fireworks display in your community. Many communities are still planning fireworks displays throughout the summer. These are safe and cost-effective ways to enjoy fireworks without the added risk of doing it yourself.

Be careful around pets. It is also important to remember many pets are scared and stressed by fireworks. If you own a dog, make sure it's in a secure place, and don’t let strangers check on it. Dogs can be more aggressive when in a heightened state of stress.

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Unpredictable summer weather

Severe weather is common in our region during the summer months. The heat and humidity bring unexpected thunderstorms, often accompanied by high winds. Follow these simple guidelines to keep you and your family safe during weather events:

Make a family plan for severe weather. Decide on a check-in strategy if severe weather hits, so every family member is accounted for.

Keep a weather app on your phone or a battery-operated weather radio. If you’re headed on a road trip, check the forecast for the day and follow severe storms so you can stay out of the storm’s path.

Be flexible if the forecast is bad. Consider changing your plans if you see severe weather coming. If you do venture out, keep a close watch on the weather.

Seek shelter immediately in the event of lightning or a tornado warning. Know where the local shelters are in your area, so that you can seek shelter should the storm cause major damage.

The heat of the summer sun

Whether you’re lounging around by the pool, working on an outdoor home project, or getting in some miles on the local trail, follow these tips to stay safe during the hot summer days:

Choose the right sunscreen to avoid a dangerous sunburn. Apply a sunscreen with SPF30 or above. Be sure to reapply as directed and know how your sunscreen reacts to water.

Avoid peak sunlight. The sun is its strongest between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so schedule your outdoor time accordingly. If you are outdoors in the middle of the day, plan shade breaks or set time aside to seek cool air and relief from the sun indoors.

Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day, heat-related illness can be very serious and even life-threatening. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Drink plenty of water and if you want to mix it up, choose a non-alcoholic and caffeine-free beverage.

Cooking on the grill

Summer is a great time to enjoy fresh, healthy foods on the grill, but you want to make sure the only thing you burn is the chicken. Take the following precautions to keep safe while enjoying outdoor cooking:

Check the gas grill for leaks. The first time you use your gas grill for the year, spray a water soap mixture around the hose. When you turn the gas on, you will see bubbles forming near the damaged hose if there is a leak.

Clean your grill. The grease buildup from a dirty grill can cause a fire or a flare-up.

Your grill should be in a safe place. Grills should never be used indoors, and should be placed 10 feet away from any building. If a grill is on an upstairs balcony or deck, make sure there is an exterior stairway in case of a fire.

Keep children away from the grill and don’t leave a hot grill unattended. Anyone not involved in cooking should be at least three feet away from the grill.

Open the gas grill cover before using igniter. The gas can build up under the cover and cause an explosion. Make sure the cover is off the grill when using the igniter.

Do not use gasoline on any grill. Fires caused by gasoline or other improvised fuels are major sources of burns.

Stories around the campfire

A great ending to many summer nights includes a group of friends around a campfire, but it is important to make sure everyone stays safe.

Alcohol and fires usually mean trouble. Alcohol impairs judgment and it can be a dangerous combination with fire.

Watch children around open flames and teach them fire safety. While campfires are another favorite summer pastime, the potential for burns, especially to unsupervised children, is high.

Keep flammable liquids away from tents. Build your fire downwind from your campsite.

Put the fire out before going to bed. Make sure the fire is fully extinguished when unattended. Even smoldering coals can reignite and get out of control if left unattended.

Summer is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Pennsylvania. With planning, you and your family can enjoy the season and the summer holidays without having to make a trip to the emergency department. If an accident does occur, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

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Tony Bixby, NRP, is the chief of Susquehanna Regional EMS and director of Prehospital Services at UPMC in the Susquehanna Region.