The Fourth of July is just a few days away. People across Louisiana will gather to celebrate the birth of our nation. Fourth of July celebrations can sometimes end in unpleasant surprises like a trip to the emergency room. If you'll be celebrating with fireworks, a barbecue, or relaxing at the pool or beach, the American Red Cross has tips for enjoying a safe, happy holiday.

Getty Images

FIREWORKS: The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to let the  professionals do it. Stay back at least 500 feet. If you do set fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:
* Never give fireworks to children, and always follow the instructions on the package.
* Keep a supply of water handy.
* Eye protection should be worn.
* Light one a time. NEVER attempt to relight "a dud."
*  fireworks should be stored a cool, dry place inaccessible to children and pets.
* Fireworks should never be pointed toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.

SAFE GRILLING: People are injured every year while using backyard charcoal or gas grills. Follow these steps for safety:
* Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
* Grills are for outdoor use only!
* Keep kids, and pets away from the grill.
* Keep the grill away from anything that could catch fire.
* Use long-handled tools. They're made specifically for cooking on the grill, to keep the chef safe.
* Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited. I suggest you don't use fluid in the first place. Get a "Chimney." You'll taste the difference.
* Follow manufacturer's instructions.

AT THE BEACH: Before swimming in the ocean, learn how to swim in surf. Swim only at a lifeguarded beach. Stay in designated swimming areas. Obey all lifeguard instructions.
* be alert to local weather conditions. Check for warning signs or flags.
* Always swim with a buddy.
* Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
* Don't dive headfirst. proceed carefully into open waters.
* Pay constant attention to children AND adults while at the beach. Wave action can knock people off their feet, even in shallow water. I've been knocked off my feet by ocean surf that was only ankle deep.
* Avoid floating plants and leave aquatic animals alone.
RIP CURRENTS have been responsible for several deaths on our nation's beaches in recent weeks. Any beach with breaking waves may have rip currents. Beware of "calm" areas in breaking surf.
* If your'e caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you're free of it, then turn toward shore.
* Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents can be near them.
SUN PROTECTION Exposure to direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is most dangerous. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Reapply often, at least once an hour.  Drink plenty of water, even if you're not thirsty. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that will absorb 100 percent of UV rays. Protect your feet by wearing sandals, or beach shoes. Hot sand can burn them and sharp objects can cut them.
Have a safe & Happy Fourth Of July!