July 4th 2003 Health News Tips

Fourth of July 2003 Health News Tips Extra

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.


A fireworks display at home may sound like a fun way to celebrate Independence Day, but amateur shows, including the backyard variety, can be dangerous and vision-threatening, says Dr. Preston Blomquist, an ophthalmologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“We have seen people lose vision and lose eyes,” he says, adding that bottle rockets tend to cause most of the injuries. “The rockets fly erratically and the bottles or cans used to launch the rockets can explode, creating shrapnel.”

Besides showering spectators with glass and metal fragments, bottle rockets can also strike the eye directly. Anyone who suffers a fireworks-related eye injury should immediately go to a hospital emergency room.

There are about 11,000 fireworks-related injuries every year, with almost 2,200 of those affecting the eyes. Consumer fireworks are responsible for one third of all eye injuries.

Says Dr. Blomquist: “Go watch a professional fireworks event; don’t do this at home.”

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem


If you plan on hiking or camping over the Fourth of July, remember to take along insect repellent and long pants, say doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

A repellent, preferably one containing the active ingredient DEET (N,N-diethyl-m toluamide) will help ward off mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus and other diseases. West Nile virus causes flu-like symptoms in infected persons. It can, in rare cases, cause severe illness and even death.

Wearing long pants tucked into socks or boots as well as long-sleeved shirts will help protect against ticks, a Lyme disease transmitter. About 16,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported annually. A common symptom of the bacterial infection is pain and swelling in one’s joints, which can become severe and chronic. The disease is rarely, if ever, fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using a DEET-based repellent also can reduce the risk of tick attachment, which one should check for after each outdoor excursion.

Media Contact: Rachel Horton


Many kids narrowly escape drowning during summertime holiday celebrations held near water. Designating an adult water watcher could easily prevent those potential tragedies, says Dr. Steven Kernie, a pediatric critical care physician at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“A lot of drownings happen at parties or social events where there are plenty of adults around - everybody assumes someone else is watching the water,” Dr. Kernie says. "Know who is watching the swimmers.”

Water watchers should also have immediate access to a telephone so they can call 911 in case an accident does occur. That means keeping the phone, if it’s a cell phone, charged and within reach rather than in the car or indoors, Dr. Kernie says.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem


Salmonella is no respecter of holidays. Fourth of July picnics and parties can provide the ideal climate for the bacteria’s growth, which can lead to food poisoning, says Dr. Greene Shepherd, assistant professor of emergency medicine and toxicologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Dr. Shepherd offers a few tips to outsmart salmonella:

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables immediately, and cook food at recommended temperatures to kill bacteria.
  • Wash your hands in hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, serving or eating food. And thoroughly wash plates, utensils, cutting boards and countertops after contact with raw meat.
  • Avoid leaving food standing for long periods of time.

“Just be smart about how you buy, store, prepare and serve food, and you’ll reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses,” says Dr. Shepherd. For more information, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222.


Media Contact: Rachel Horton


Heat may be your most serious opponent as summer kicks off into high gear for the long holiday weekend. But with a few simple precautions, heat-related injuries can be avoided, says Dr. Craig Crandall, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Hydration is the most important variable,” says Crandall who is also a research scientist at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine.

Some tips to help prevent heat exhaustion include:

  • Avoid intense physical activity during the hottest periods of the day.
  • Recognize the symptoms associated with heat exhaustion, which can include nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache and pale skin.
  • If symptoms occur, seek cooler environmental conditions and keep adequately hydrated: water is best; avoid sugary drinks, caffeinated beverages and alcohol.

“The body undergoes a period of heat acclimation early in the summer. When outside temperatures first begin to rise, gradually increase your exposure to these conditions over a period of one to two weeks,” Crandall says.

Media Contact: Amy Shields


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