PARKERSBURG - For area residents, the Fourth of July means backyard parties and barbecues, trips to the pool or river and lots of food and because of so much activity, many individuals and organizations want everyone to be safe.
"The Fourth of July is a lot more than just fireworks," said Larry Webb, a paramedic and emergency medical services technician with Camden Clark Ambulance Service, a part of Camden Clark Medical Center.
With food as a major part of the festivities as families and groups of friends get together for picnics and parties, people often forget about keeping food at the proper temperature.
Carissa McBurney, community outreach coordinator for the West Virginia Poison Center, said poisonings are the most common when people do something different.
"Poisonings are the most common when normal routines are interrupted, especially during holidays or parties," she said.
One of the most common types of illness during any holiday party is food poisoning and the summer months are when the majority of food poisoning cases occur because bacteria multiply faster in warm temperatures, according to the state poison control center.
An estimated one in six 48 million - Americans will get sick from food-borne illnesses in 2013 with 128,000 of those being hospitalized and about 3,000 deaths, according to the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
To avoid food poisoning during warm weather gatherings, keep hot food hot and cold foods cold. Make sure all meats are thoroughly cooked and do not use the same plate before cooking and after cooking to avoid cross-contamination.
"The general rule is to keep things with dairy, eggs and mayonnaise - anything you would normally keep in the refrigerator - in a cooler or on ice," Webb said.
Heat stroke and sun protection are very important during Fourth of July festivities because warm temperatures mixed with high humidity can cause people to become sick.
A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, light-colored and lightweight clothing, large-brimmed hats and drinking plenty of water can save a person from not only sunburn but also heat stroke.
People must know the signs, which include: hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. If it's suspected someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 and move the person to a cooler place while also applying cool, wet cloths to the skin and keep them lying down, according to the American Red Cross.
Safety gear is also a necessity as people take to the water and all-terrain vehicle trails.
"For boating safety, people need to make sure everyone has a flotation device and someone not with them knows their float plan when they are leaving, where they are going and when they will be back," said Webb.
"It is just a good idea someone knows what you are doing in case something happens."
Helmets and other safety items, such as protective jackets, are also recommended for those planning to take to motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles this holiday.
"Everyone needs to be very careful on ATVs," Webb said. "Helmets are lifesavers and necessary for anyone riding and driving an ATV or motorcycle because accidents are never planned."
Alcohol should also be consumed in moderation, whatever the activity.
"I know people want to partake and have a good time, but the more you drink, the less control you have," Webb said. "It is a lot safer to limit your intake and know what is going on around you than to drink a lot and lose the ability to react to unsafe situations."