The Fourth of July is the quintessential summer holiday in the United States. It’s a fun celebration, filled with picnics and barbecues, fireworks displays and time spent in pools and on beaches and on boats. It also can be a painful day for many, and results in thousands of trips to the emergency room each year. Injuries caused by mishandled fireworks, drownings and boating injuries, fires and burns related to grilling incidents, insect stings, food poisoning and car crashes are just some of the fun buzz kills seen by ER doctors and nurses.
This year, a new layer of safety concerns has been added. Celebrating Independence Day will be different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The American Red Cross offers these safety tips you can follow.
COVID 19 Precautions
- If your community is reopening, know which precautions to take in public settings. Continue to social distance by staying 6 feet away from others, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (over age 65 or any age with underlying medical conditions).
- Continue to wear cloth face coverings in public. Face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult.
- Follow guidelines for your area when it comes to how large gatherings can be. Avoid crowds and mass gatherings.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Stay home if you are sick.
Fourth of July Fireworks Safety
Many public fireworks shows are canceled this summer as communities try to avoid holding events where large crowds will gather.
- If you plan to use your own fireworks, check first if it is legal in your area.
- Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging. Many people believe sparklers are “safe” for children to use. The reality is that they burn at 2,000 degrees and 500 sparkler-related injuries occur each year among children.
- Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
- Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
- Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
- Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
Grilling and Food Safety
Grilling fires spark more than 10,000 home fires on average each year in the U.S. To avoid this:
- Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited and NEVER use gasoline as a charcoal starter.
- Never grill indoors — not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area. Keep the grill away from the house or anything that could catch fire.
- Make sure everyone stays away from the grill, including children and pets.
- Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill and use multiple grill tools so that you are not flipping raw chicken with the same tongs you use for vegetable kabobs.
- Do not use a wire brush to clean your grill. Use a crumpled piece of aluminum foil instead.
- Never put a propane tank in the trunk of your car.
- Don’t leave picnic food out all afternoon or day. Bacteria grows more quickly than you could imagine.
Warmer weather means enjoying the water. Be “water smart,” have swimming skills and know how to help others. This includes home pools — where young children are most at risk of drowning — and open water, such as ponds, rivers and lakes — where older children and teens are more likely to drown than any other location. With less access to lifeguarded aquatic facilities this summer, youth and teens may consider open water environments that are not designated for swimming.
- Talk to your children, including older youth and teenagers, about water safety. A variety of resources are available at redcross.org/watersafety and redcross.org/watersafetyforkids.
- If you choose to take your family to the water, make sure the area is designated for swimming and has lifeguards on duty. Once there, maintain social distancing, both in and out of the water, between you and people who don’t live with you.
- Wear face coverings on land, especially when physical distancing is difficult. Do not wear them in the water as it may be difficult to breathe. Don’t share goggles, nose clips, snorkels or other personal items.
- Designate a water watcher whose sole responsibility is to supervise people during any in-water activity until the next person takes over.
- Kiddie or inflatable pools can be a great way to have fun. Drain the water from the pool and flip it over after swim time is over.
- Don’t take your dog to see fireworks and make sure your pets are wearing collars with ID tags or are microchipped. More dogs run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.
- If you’re making drinks such as margaritas with fresh juice from limes or lemons, make sure you rinse it off your skin before going out in the sun. Phytophotodermatitis is caused by the juice and it can result in chemical burns.
- If you’re going to be outside, wear sunscreen and check the expiration date. Sunscreen does expire! And don’t forget to put it on the “forgotten” spots: tops of the feet, part in the hair, back of the neck, tops of the ears.
Follow these tips, and your Fourth of July celebration will be memorable for all the right reasons!