As July Fourth approaches, medical and law enforcement officials are urging the public to safely celebrate the holiday.
In 2003, more than 4,000 children younger than 14 were treated in emergency rooms nationwide for fireworks-related injuries, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
Dr. Robert F. Mullins, of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, said his treatment center saw 25 fireworks-related burn patients during last year's holiday. Three patients were from Georgia, with the remainder from South Carolina.
"We see all types, and all ages," Mullins said of fireworks burn patients. The most common patients, he said, are 10 to 20 years old and suffer from burns to the hands typically caused by fuses that burn quicker than people expect.
"With small children, we see sparkler burns, because they hold on too long and they catch their shirts on fire," he said.
Mullins recommends people attend professional fireworks displays. But if they do purchase fireworks for personal use, they should follow the law and use only approved fireworks.
In Georgia, only sparklers and non-explosive fireworks and noise makers are permitted.
Mullins said people using fireworks should never ignite them indoors or around flammable material, wear loose-fitting clothing, leave children unsupervised or reignite a firework if it doesn't explode.
A source of water or fire extinguisher is vital, Mullins said, in case of injury or fire. If burned, people should go to the closest water source, cool the burn and apply antibiotic ointment and seek medical attention.
With an increase of people on Georgia's lakes and rivers, safety is the biggest issue, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Doyt Chaffin said.
"Every person on any vessel has to have a Coast Guard-approved life preserver, and it has to be a proper size and fit," Chaffin said, adding that boats with enclosed areas where gas fumes might be trapped are required by law to have fire extinguishers.
Activity is starting to pick up on Georgia's lakes and rivers in time for Independence Day, he said.
Chaffin said boaters and operators should check their safety equipment before going onto the water. They also should be familiar with their equipment and determine a designated driver.
Chaffin said his department has zero tolerance for boating under the influence violations, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and $1,000. Alcohol has a greater effect on boaters, he said, because they tend to be out in the sun and do not eat or stay hydrated as they would at home.
Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said his department will be fully staffed "to aggressively enforce all traffic laws to help ensure that motorists have a safe and happy weekend."
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