10 Fourth of July Health Hazards
Fourth of July is a time for picnics, parades, and of course, patriotism. But for many Americans, the holiday may end very differently than it began--with a terrifying trip to the emergency room. In addition to common culprits like fireworks and grilling, Independence Day injuries often arise from seemingly safe sources, such as foods, drinks, and fun in the sun. Read on as we reveal the top ten Fourth of July health hazards.
Independence Day Injuries-Averted
Whatever your plans this holiday, beware the following health hazards.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), fireworks account for an estimated 10,000 emergency room visits every year, and over two-thirds of these accidents occur during June and July. What's more, firecrackers, rockets, and even sparklers can cause permanent damage to the hands, head, and face, as well as blindness. The best policy? Leave the fireworks to the pros-and focus on finding a safe spot where you can enjoy the display.
Everyone loves outdoor cooking, but backyard-grilling accidents cause more than 2,000 fires, 300 injuries, and 30 deaths in the United States annually, the Insurance Information Institute reports. To prevent accidents at your holiday barbecue, check your grill hoses for cracks, brittleness, sharp bends, holes, and leaks. Always keep propane gas containers upright, and move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. In addition, keep flammable liquids, like gasoline, away from the grill at all times.
3. Insect Bites.
Insects may seem like a minor inconvenience, but in some cases, bites and stings can cause life-threatening reactions. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the pesky critters from spoiling your Fourth of July fun. Wear insect repellent with 10 to 30 percent DEET, reapply it after swimming or sweating, and check yourself regularly for ticks. If you're allergic to bee stings or spider bites, keep an epinephrine kit handy. Be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you experience serious symptoms following a sting or bite, such as shortness of breath, fever, chills, redness, excessive hives, muscle cramps, weakness, nausea, or vomiting.
Sadly, more than 3,000 people die each year as a result of choking, and some of the most common culprits include hot dogs. If frankfurters are on your Fourth of July menu, be sure to cut them lengthwise and then into smaller pieces, especially if you're feeding them to kids, and watch out for other summer fare that could pose choking risks, such as whole grapes, carrots cut on the diagonal, peanuts, and popcorn. In addition, don't forget to chew your food properly, and never walk or run while you have food in your mouth.
UV exposure is not only the leading cause of photoaging and skin cancer; it can also put you at risk for sunburns, which can range in severity from cases of minor redness to those resulting in debilitation or even death. Fortunately, you can prevent them by wearing protective clothing, regularly applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and avoiding being in the sun during midday, when UV rays are at their strongest. If you notice any signs of severe sunburn, such as pain, blistering, headache, confusion, fainting, or nausea, it's important to get to an emergency room right away.
6. Food Poisoning.
The dog days of July are perfect for light outdoor eating. But the sweltering weather can also be a breeding ground for foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. To reduce your risk of exposure, wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after food handling, cook all meats and eggs thoroughly, and wash any utensils and surfaces that come into contact with raw foods (rather than letting them come into contact with other edibles). If you notice any of the telltale signs of foodborne illnesses-nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, fever, bloody stool-be sure to seek out medical attention immediately.
7. Alcohol Poisoning.
Fourth of July is a celebration, and it can often set the stage for alcohol abuse. While adults should be careful to limit their consumption or refrain from booze completely, according to experts at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, even young children may be at risk. To prevent accidents from happening, don't leave full or leftover cocktails lying around, and never allow a child to sip from your glass. In addition, driving while intoxicated is a common holiday risk, so make sure that you, your family, and friends never get into a car whose driver has been drinking.
Tragically, some 3,000 drowning deaths occur in the United States every year, and most of the victims are children. In fact, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental deaths among children 1 to 14 years old. At your Fourth of July festivities, don't forget to keep swimmers, and especially kids, in your sight at all times. For very young children, the American Red Cross recommends practicing "reach supervision" by staying within an arm's length reach. Adults should also remember that alcohol and water sports don't mix.
Thousands of Americans suffer from dehydration every year, and the hot, humid weather makes people particularly susceptible. The good news: The condition is totally preventable. Remember to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day; don't overexert yourself; stay in cool, shaded areas whenever possible; and avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, or carbonated beverages, which can deplete your body of hydration. Symptoms of dehydration typically include darker colored urine, constipation, bloating, dry mouth, a lack of energy, and muscle cramping, and if left untreated, the condition can escalate to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Also known as hyperthermia or sunstroke, heatstroke could definitely put a damper on your holiday soiree. Young children, the elderly, and people who engage in intense physical activity are particularly at risk, but everyone should take precautions. To stop overheating before its start, be sure to drink plenty of liquids; wear light, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat; and avoid strenuous exercise in hot weather. If you suspect you or a loved one may have heatstroke, notify your local emergency services as soon as possible.
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