Independence Day is a time to celebrate. However, it’s also one of the most dangerous holidays in the United States. If you follow these tips, you might avoid serious injuries and an unwanted emergency department visit.
Take Firework Safety Seriously
Fireworks injure thousands of people over the Fourth of July each year. Most of these injuries are caused by individuals, not public displays. And while you might think large state or municipal firework celebrations are responsible for most injuries, private usage actually makes up the bulk of these injuries. For instance, sparklers cause 28% of all firework injuries.
If you’re going to light fireworks over the holiday, please follow these simple rules:
- Establish a three-foot child- and pet-free zone before you light your fireworks.
- Never let a child handle or light a firework. (35% of all firework injuries involve children under the age of 15.)
- Keep water nearby and wear protective eyewear.
- Carefully follow the firework’s instructions. Never light a firework in a container or while holding it.
- Do not relight “duds.”
- Only light one firework at a time.
Don’t panic if you’re injured by a firework. If your clothing is on fire, stop, drop, and roll. Then, call 911. You should also cool the burns with running water and coat the burnt area with cling wrap (do not use fabric bandages since they can stick to the burn).
If you’re going to consume alcohol or marijuana over the holiday, please do so responsibly. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more people die in car crashes on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. Sadly, 47% of these fatal crashes involved drunk or impaired drivers.
Intoxication doesn’t just limit your ability to drive or boat. When you’re drunk or high, your judgment and reaction times also diminish. This occurs even before you reach the blood-alcohol content (BAC) limits for operating a vehicle.
- Two drinks: Roughly a 0.02% BAC. You’ll experience decreased visual function, difficulties multitasking, poor judgment, and an altered mood.
- Three drinks: Roughly a 0.05% BAC. You’ll notice decreased coordination, difficulty tracking moving objects, and slower reaction times.
- Four drinks: Approximately a 0.08% BAC, the California threshold for drunk driving. You have reduced concentration, short-term memory loss, limited perception and self-control, and difficulties controlling your speed while operating a car or boat.
- Five drinks: About a 0.10% BAC. There is a clear decrease in your reaction times, slurred speech, and you’ll have difficulties controlling and stopping your vehicle.
When you’re out celebrating, you should always designate someone as your sober driver or use public transportation, a taxi, or a rideshare service (Lyft, Uber, etc.) to get home. And if you’re concerned about substance abuse or addiction, consult with your PCP.
Enjoy Water Sports Responsibly
In the Bay Area, we love our beaches, boats, and water sports. However, our waterways are busy on the Fourth of July. Make sure you stay up-to-date on local weather conditions, rip currents, and boating advisories. You should always have enough life preservers on board for all your passengers, and children should always wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest.
You should also make sure you swim safely. Never dive into a body of water head first, as you might seriously injure your neck and spinal cord. You should also keep a close eye on children and inexperienced swimmers.
Pack a First Aid Kit
Bumps, bruises, and skinned knees are inevitable. When you’re packing your bags for a Fourth of July holiday adventure or vacation, bring along a first aid kit. This way, you’ll be prepared if someone suffers a minor injury.
Your first aid kit should include:
- Alcohol wipes or a topical antiseptic to clean wounds
- Hydrocortisone cream for bug bites and mild rashes
- Antihistamines for allergic reactions
- Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Burn pads or cling wrap if you’re planning on lighting fireworks, grilling, or having a bonfire
You should also pack your insurance cards in case you need to seek medical care.
Protect Yourself From the Sun and Heat
While you’re outside enjoying the sunshine, make sure to protect your skin and stay hydrated. Even if you’re not prone to sunburns, you should always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen. If you’re sweating or in the water, make sure to reapply frequently. This can help protect your skin from the short- and long-term effects of UV damage.
Drink lots of water, even if you’re not thirsty. This can help your body stay cool and properly hydrated. It’s also important to look out for signs of heat stroke — such as hot, red skin, lightheadedness or changes in consciousness, and shallow breathing. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911, move the person to a shaded area, and try to cool them down with wet towels or a fan. Do not leave someone with heat stroke unattended, since they can quickly develop breathing difficulties.
Avoid Food Poisoning and Barbecue Safely
While all-day barbecues are fun, you should never keep food uncovered or at room temperature for very long. The FDA suggests you never keep food out for more than two hours. If it’s 90 degrees or warmer, that number drops to one hour. Instead, keep perishable foods on ice or refrigerated.
You’ll also want to grill safely. Never light your grill next to flammable items like wooden railings, overhangs, or branches, and never spray an already-lit grill with lighter fluid. You should also supervise your grill while it’s lit and never let children play next to it. To avoid a fire, check the grease collection system on your grill, and empty it regularly.
Ahrens, M. (2016, June). Fireworks. National Fire Protection Association. Retrieved from https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fire-statistics/Fire-causes/Fireworks
Uren, B. (2016, July 29). How alcohol impairs your ability to drive. Michigan Health. Retrieved from https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/wellness-prevention/how-alcohol-impairs-your-ability-to-drive