Memorial Day may be the official kickoff of summer, but the Fourth of July is when outdoor fun really starts heating up.
Unfortunately, so do trips to the emergency room. Our national birthday trails only New Year’s Eve in the number of drug- and alcohol-related ER visits. Add in fireworks, water sports and cookouts, and there’s plenty of potential for the holiday to go awry.
Whether you’re heading to the beach, the mountains or your own backyard, here are a few tips to help ensure a safe and happy celebration.
On the road
Like mom always told you, “Drive safely.” The 4th of July is one of the deadliest days of the year on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. Part of the reason is the 4th is also the number-one holiday for beer sales. If you plan to indulge, always have a designated driver — or sip that sangria at home.
If you do hit the road, remember to never leave a child or pet in a vehicle, even to dash into the store. At a balmy 70 degrees, after just 30 minutes in the sun the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees.
Ooh, ahh, ouch!
Fireworks were involved in 10,000 injuries treated in ERs last year — most of those in the month surrounding July 4. Hands, faces and eyes all come in the line of fire when fireworks are handled improperly. Best bet is to leave fireworks to the pros. But if you can’t resist lighting up a few firecrackers, always have an adult supervising. Even those innocent-looking sparklers can cause severe burns.
It may not feel “cool” but everyone in a boat should wear a life vest. Children and inexperienced swimmers should wear life vests around water, whether in a boat or not. And it should go without saying, but never leave children alone or unattended near a pool or open body of water. Drowning causes more deaths in children ages 1 to 4 than anything except birth defects.
Oh, and back to the beer: Boating and alcohol don’t mix. If you’re popping a top, have a designated driver just as you would on land.
It’s important to keep food at picnics and cookouts at the right temperatures to avoid foodborne illness. Basically, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. This advice applies any time, but may take extra precautions if you’re outdoors in warm temperatures.
Fun in the sun
Bug spray, sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water are no-brainers. Also remember to pack — and use — the right protective gear for your activity: helmets for biking, sturdy shoes for hiking.