The lights, the music, and the floats: it all makes carnival season a sight to behold.
"It's the king factor, for an hour you have the most power," said party store owner and parade participant Nelson Maddox.
And, the one with the most power is the one with the most beads, those shiny, colorful, irresistible souvenirs of carnival.
"We'll throw about a 150 cases off of our float," said Maddox who explained that each case can hold up to 15 dozen beads.
Beads and throws may start off in pristine condition, but by the time they are sorted, prepped, thrown, caught and many times thrown again, those beads may be carrying more than the Mardi Gras spirit.
"Germs, virus, flu virus, bacteria contamination, soil, mud, dirt, just all the usual stuff that you have worry about that comes with its own germs," listed Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Chris Funes.
Funes says it's important to be careful with young kids and beads, because toddlers tend to put them in their mouth where germs can easily transfer, not to mention possible toxic chemicals like lead.
"Some of these beads are made in places that don't have the rigorous checks and balances on how the manufacturing is done. Like anything else, you have to be extra careful," said Funes.
If you want to keep your Mardi Gras from becoming "Mardi Gross," Funes suggest laying down some rules before the parade, like no picking up beads off the ground. If beads are especially dirty, toss them. Also, when you get home, it's also a good idea to run your beads through some hot water and soap just in case.
"Certainly everything comes with a little risk, but I think this is a risk worth having," said Funes.
The pediatrician also says it's important to keep a close eye on kids. He says that often in crowds of friends and families, everyone assumes that someone else is watching the kids. Funes suggests making a game plan with your group before heading out to enjoy the fun.
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