With the glorious Fourth of July this year on tap to be one of the biggest ever for travel, it’s not only important to make sure that the car’s tuned up and the kids’ stuff is all packed.

On the Gulf Coast, we want everybody to be safe.

For most people flocking to the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico — more in Florida and Alabama, we’ll grant you — a beachside rendezvous includes keeping an eye out for the red flags that indicate riptides or otherwise unsafe swimming conditions.

That’s important, but there are other hidden dangers.

Health advisories are issued for beaches by health departments in the Gulf states.

Louisiana’s Department of Health tests every week for water quality. The department posts the results of the tests taken along Louisiana’s beaches, focusing for a group of bacteria commonly found in sewage that cause illnesses like rashes, stomach problems or infections.

From April through October, these advisories are posted online as well as on signs at the beaches to give people more information about possible risks.

“We want to inform everyone that there is a potential for infection,” said Dr. Marilyn Reynaud, the Department of Health regional medical director for the Baton Rouge area.

Life is full of risks, a fact that should not put a damper on the joys of summer. For pollution-borne bacteria, though, the risks are especially great for the young, those whom we all wish to protect.

There also is a higher risk for the elderly, those with immune deficiencies and people with open wounds, Reynaud said.

The best medical advice: If water does get into a wound, the wound should be cleaned and disinfected immediately. Any infected wound should be seen by medical personnel as soon as possible.

Watching out for the incidences of contamination is obviously the first line of defense. The health department took a total of 772 samples at 24 stations along the coast during the 2015 season, resulting in 65 health advisories at 22 of the 24 sites.

The department advises that in the areas that carry an elevated risk, people who swim there should avoid swallowing water or dunking their head below the water, Reynaud said. Showering after swimming in an advisory area also can help.

The primary source of the bacteria is faulty sewer systems, which can put even more bacteria into the water after heavy rains. It’s a good idea to delay swimming in an area after a heavy rain, Reynaud said.

Her advice is welcome, but the monitoring program is one of the ways government experts can help to protect our people, if we pay attention to their warnings and heed medical guidance.

We’re looking forward to a safe and healthy holiday and hope everyone can enjoy it without illness or injury.