11 Tips for a Safe Fourth of July
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
- Be a safe swimmer. Water sports and fireworks are two of the biggest
pastimes for Fourth of July celebrations, and these are both linked to numerous
deaths and injuries each year. Never
swim alone, and make sure that kids' water
play is adequately supervised at all times. Many
drownings occur when parents
and other adults are nearby, so always have a designated chaperone for water
play and don't assume that others are watching the kids. Statistics show that
most young children who drown in pools have been out of sight for less than five
- If fireworks are legal in your community and are a part of your
celebration, be sure to store and use them safely. Keep the kids away from the
fireworks at all times, and keep spectators at a safe distance. Attending
fireworks displays organized by professionals is always safer than trying to
put on your own show.
- Use alcohol responsibly. Alcohol and fireworks can be a hazardous and
dangerous combination. Also, have a designated driver to bring partygoers home
from the festivities. Remember also that alcohol and swimming can be as
dangerous as drinking and driving.
- Lakes, waterways, and seas will be crowded with boats. Review safe boating
practices, and don't drink and drive your boat. Alcohol consumption while
operating boats or other motorized water vessels is illegal, and you can be
arrested for a BWI (boating under the influence!).
Be sure that you have an adequate number of life preservers on hand for
extra guests. Become familiar with the
boating laws in your area.
- Cover food and beverages outdoors to discourage bees and wasps from
attending your party. If someone is allergic to insect stings, you should have
an emergency anaphylaxis kit on hand. Wearing shoes, long sleeves, and long pants outdoors and avoiding fragranced
body products, bright colors, and sugary drinks can also help prevent bee
- Apply sunscreen both before and during an outdoor party. Ultraviolet rays
from the sun can cause both premature aging and skin cancer in the long term,
and a painful burn the next day. Even those with darker skin should
sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15, according to
recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Check prescription medications you are taking to assure you will not have
a sun-sensitizing drug reaction to the medication.
- If you'll be hiking or camping in an area where ticks are abundant, wear
long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks or boots to
protect yourself from tick-borne diseases. For your skin, you can use a
repellent with no more than 30% DEET according to the manufacturer's
instructions. Products containing DEET should not be used on children less
than 2 months of age and should not be applied to the hands or face of young
children. Check yourself (and your pets) for ticks at the end of the day.
- Spend adequate time indoors or in the shade and drink plenty of fluids to
avoid heat illness in extremely hot climates. The risk of heat illness is
increased when participating in strenuous activity or sports, and those with
chronic medical conditions and the elderly are also at an increased risk of heat
exhaustion and/or heat stroke. Alcohol consumption can also promote dehydration
and increase the risk.
- Keep children away from campfires and grills. Gas leaks, blocked
tubes, and overfilled propane tanks can be a cause of grill fires and
- Don't leave the picnic spread out all day. Allowing food to sit in
outdoor temperatures can invite foodborne illness. The U.S. FDA suggests never
leaving food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 F and
not more than two hours at other times. Foods that need to be kept cold should
be placed in a cooler with plenty of ice or freezing packs and held at a maximum
temperature of 40 F. While mayonnaise and other egg dishes are
often associated with food poisoning,
any food can potentially become contaminated. Adequate hand washing and food
preparation can also help prevent food poisoning.
REFERENCES: Last Editorial Review: 6/30/2011
CPSC.gov. Fireworks Safety.
USCGboating.org. Boating Saftey Resource Center.