The 4th of July is a time for family, friends and FUN! It’s an all-American weekend known for its barbeques, beaches and fireworks. It also means heavy drinking for some. We want everyone to have a FUN holiday weekend, but we also want you to have a SAFE one.
Here are 6 things we think are important to think about before celebrating this upcoming weekend:
Hydration – When you’re laying out on the beach with your friends or playing horseshoes in your backyard with family, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated, especially when consuming alcohol. According to the American Heart Association, “Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.” They recommend that water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to consume gallons of water. Many fruits and vegetables contain a high percentage of water, such as blueberries, oranges, peaches, pineapples, plums, raspberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, celery, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, so pack some healthy snacks as well!
Hydration is especially important if you’re going to be drinking. To stay hydrated while consuming alcohol and minimize the likelihood of a hangover, you should:
- Have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume
- Be sure to drink plenty of water before spending a day drinking in the sun
- Choose an alcoholic drink that includes at least some water or mix a bit of water in with your beverage
- Choose hydrating snacks, like some of the fruits and veggies mentioned above that have a high water content and limit your salt intake (avoid sodium-filled snacks like potato chips, pretzels and nuts)
- Mix alcoholic drinks with hydrating juices and use plenty of ice (frozen cocktails are great for a hot summer day!)
Grill Safety – Nothing says “It’s 4th of July” better than the smell of burgers and dogs on the grill. While indulging in these American staples, it’s important to remember that grills can also be dangerous if not used properly. June and July are the peak months for grilling fires. Gas grills alone have been involved in an annual average of 7,200 home fires from 2007-2011, while charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in an annual average of 1,400 home fires (NFPA’s “Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment). The National Fire Protection Association offers the following tips for grilling safety:
- Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors
- Be sure to place the grill well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches
- Keep children and pets away from the grill area
- Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and trays below the grill
- Never leave your grill unattended
- Always have a fire extinguisher on hand or know where one is located if you are not at your home (check it beforehand to make sure it is not expired!)
If using a propane grill, you should also be sure to check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
Fireworks – Fireworks are an Independence Day essential. In fact, most people can’t imagine their Independence Day weekend without them. Although beautiful to look at, fireworks can also be extremely dangerous. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission states that on average, 200 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the months round the July 4th holiday. They suggest the following safety tips when using fireworks:
- Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers, which burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding to prevent a trash fire
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them
It is also important to realize that animals (dogs especially) can be afraid of fireworks and may act out if they’re frightened. Be sure to know how your pets react to the loud noises if they’re going to join you in your celebrations. If you have small children, keep them away from animals you don’t know or are unfamiliar with as you never know how they may react.
Drinking & Driving (and yes, that includes boats and jet skis) – According to data from NHTSA, during July 4th weekend, from 2008-2012, 765 people lost their lives in crashes involving drivers with BAC of .08 or more. These fatalities account for 40% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities over this same five year-period. Nobody wants a weekend of fun to turn tragic, so do yourself and the millions of other people on the road a favor and use a sober driver. If you don’t want to stay sober, STAY where you are. Your life is more important than anywhere you might want to be. Often times, people learn the consequences of driving under the influence when it’s too late. Don’t let that happen to you – be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to drinking and driving.
Rip Currents – The coastlines are filled with beachgoers over this festive weekend. You may find yourself diving into the cool ocean water for a break from the hot sun, but swimming in the waves of the ocean is much more difficult than swimming in a pool. The ocean currents and conditions can change quickly and drastically, so it’s important you’re aware of the state of the water you’re swimming in. You should be aware of the following things when swimming in the ocean:
- Swimming in currents and waves can cause fatigue more quickly than in a swimming pool
- Smooth water located between breaking waves could signal the presence of a rip current
- Be sure to ask the lifeguard about use of floatation devices before bringing them into the water
- Your body cools quickly while in the water, so limit your time and get out of you start to feel cold (although you’ll probably be cold the second you step in if you live in the northeast)
- Be sure to check and obey warnings posted on the beaches
- Be sure to take your cell phone to the beach and in case of an emergency, when the lifeguard is not present, call 911
Sun Protection – While enjoying your weekend with your family and friends, people often forget to apply and reapply sunscreen. You may not even realize you’re getting a sunburn until the next day when you’re in complete agony and can’t move without feeling a burning pain. Sunburn’s may seem just like a temporary irritation, but long term exposures to excess UV radiation can cause skin cancer, eye damage, immune system suppression and premature aging, especially for children. One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life (Skin Cancer Foundation). To avoid sunburns, you should:
- Avoid direct sunlight during the sun’s peak hours (10:00am-4:00pm) or at least limit your direct exposure
- Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours – or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring
- Cover your skin tightly with women long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats (especially children)
- If you have fair skin or burn easily, consider laundry additives, which give clothing an additional layer of ultraviolet protection for a certain number of washings. You can also purchase special sun-protective clothing that is specifically designed to block ultraviolet rays
We want everyone to enjoy their 4th of July weekend, but it’s important to recognize and understand the dangers that come with the American holiday. Having seen many tragic accidents, we think it’s better to be educated so you can take the necessary precautions before a great weekend turns bad.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, AMERICA!
Please be advised that the opinions expressed are the views of the author alone and should not be attributed to any other individual or entity and shall not constitute a legal opinion.