With the coming July 4 celebrations, local emergency rooms are preparing for the inevitable flood of summer injuries and officials said the spike in calls is especially frustrating because most cases are entirely preventable.
However, According to Dr. Wally Ghurabi, medical director, Nethercutt Emergency Center, UCLA Medical Center, the best defense against summer injuries (common sense) is often undermined by the most common cause (alcohol).
“The biggest culprit is the alcohol,” he said. “The common denominator in most of the things that happen on July 4 in the 38 years I’ve been here is the alcohol. People do things while they’re drunk whether it’s swimming or driving a car, it’s dangerous. It’s probably one of the most dangerous American holidays from that point.”
Weather can also be a concern during July 4 as many families spend the day outside either at the beach or at the popular parade on Main St.
Dr. Ghurabi said adults need to drink about 1.8 liters of water just to balance the amount of moisture used for basic tasks like breathing. He said any additional factors, like sweat, increase the importance of staying hydrated.
He said the ER still sees traditional firework injuries and about a third of the calls that come into the ER on July 4 are burns ranging from superficial to very serious.
“Sometimes the burns can really be bad,” he said. “(Fireworks) stick to the hand and go from first to second degree to deep where they need skin grafts.”
Aside from the pain, he said burns can also create lasting hardships on patients if they lose the use of a finger or thumb, even temporarily.
Dr. Ghurabi said everyone can have fun and stay safe if they keep an eye on the alcohol.
“If you want to drink booze, don’t handle fireworks,” he said. “If you want to drink, just stick with the booze and stay away from cars.”
Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez with the Santa Monica Police Department said the standard warnings about fireworks and alcohol apply regardless of the holiday. All fireworks are illegal in the City of Santa Monica and alcohol is prohibited on the beach. He said SMPD receives a wide variety of calls on a typically July 4 holiday but some traffic incidents can be avoided if locals think about alternate ways to travel that day.
“We do know there’s a lot of people that come into town so be prepared for traffic and heavy traffic,” he said. “The beach lots will be full so think about alternate transportation. If they can find another way to get into town, that’s good.”