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The 4th Brings Forth Some Challenges

Posted: July 2nd, 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

fireworksTemperatures and grills are hot, bugs are swarming and the sky is a glow with fireworks…it’s the Fourth of July! While the Fourth is usually a time for joyous celebrations, like every holiday, it brings forth its own set of poisoning hazards to adults, children and pets. Before you and yours celebrate America’s birthday, review these tips on staying safe this holiday!


Common fireworks such as firecrackers, sparklers, black snakes, bottle rockets, etc., generally contain chemicals which can be toxic in large quantities. However, accidental tastes or licks generally do not result in any serious problems. The bigger danger is the risk of traumatic explosion injury or burns with these items. Call IPC for exposure to any of these, in order to get product specific recommendations.

Pesticides and Pool Chemicals

First and foremost, read and follow all directions on the label.  Remember that some products come as a concentrate and need to be diluted before use.

  • Use these products in a well-ventilated area and keep your kids and pets away during application.   It’s also a good idea to wash your hands and change your clothes after using these products.
  • Always store these potentially harmful chemicals in their original containers.  Keep them in a locked cabinet or shed, away from children and never near food or drinks.

Food Poisoning Prevention

Nothing puts a bigger damper on summer fun than a bad case of food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.  Handling and storing food properly can keep everyone out of the bathroom and in the pool. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating and wash hands frequently during cooking.  Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat, fish and poultry.

  • When you take that raw meat out to the grill, don’t put it back on the same plate for serving; get a fresh one.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot:  serve food immediately after cooking it.
  • Take items out of the refrigerator at the last possible minute before bringing them to them table.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours, and eat them within 3-4 days (for most foods).

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

Mosquitoes, bees, spiders and the rest of the insect world love summer as much as we do.  Most stings or bites will usually cause a red, itchy or painful bump, but poisonous or venomous species can cause severe reactions.

Using “for-the-skin” summer products can protect you from the dangers of UV rays and bug bites.  Follow these tips for safe use and application of these products:

  • Be sure to use the product as directed on the label
  • Keep insect repellents and sunscreens locked out of sight and reach of children.  The IPC gets many calls every summer regarding children who have ingested sunscreen, likely because it often has a sweet, fruity odor.
  • Don’t let children handle the bottles; apply to your own hands first, then put it on the child
  • Do not use on wounds or broken skin
  • When using sprays, do not spray directly onto the face.  Spray it into your hands, and then apply to face to avoid getting it into the eyes.
  • Insect repellent: concentrations of up to 30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) have been shown to be safe for use on children older than 2 months.  Picaridin is another effective insect repellent.
  • Sunscreen: use a product labeled ‘broad spectrum’ (meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays) with a minimum SPF of 15.   Reapply every 2 hours that you are outside, and choose a water-resistant formula if you will be swimming or playing sports.
  • Always call IPC if you are bitten or stung for specific recommendations.

Glow Sticks

Perhaps one of the most common calls the poison center receives on or around the Fourth of July is the accidental ingestion or eye exposure to the liquid inside glow sticks and other glow in the dark toys and trinkets. The chemical that makes them glow is called dibutyl phthalate, but despite the scary sounding name, noxious chemical-like smell and eerie glow, these exposures rarely cause more than mild irritation.


Lamp or tiki torch oil used to light up the backyard or picnic area. You’ve read about the dangers of this oil here before, and there is a good reason we are discussing it again. This stuff is bad news if a toddler gets a hold of it. Even a few drops introduced into the airway can produce severe chemical pneumonia requiring hospital treatment. These oils are often pleasantly scented and/or colored and are stored in containers resembling drink bottles.

  • Always keep these products in their original container and locked up away from children and completely separate from where food and drinks are stored.

So remember these tips while you are out having fun in the sun this Fourth of July weekend as well as for the rest of the summer. Specialists at the IPC are available 24/7, even on the holiday (so have a brat and brew for us while we’re working). Save our number in your cell phone   (1-800-222-1222), some day it could save you back. Check out our My Child Ate Resource for more information on keeping little ones out of harm.

Enjoy your holiday and stay safe this weekend!

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Related posts:

  1. Outdoor Summer Safety
  2. Toxic Pyrotechnics and other Fourth of July Hazards
  3. Mosquitoes, ticks and biting insects, OH MY!
  4. Holiday Survival Guide Part One
  5. Fatal Attraction: Hazards of Swallowing High-Powered Magnets

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