The kids are out of school, the dress code at work is a little more relaxed. Maybe your office moves to a 4-day workweek. Maybe you have a leisurely vacation planned or you have plenty of backyard barbeques and picnics on the calendar. You are especially looking forward to the festivities surrounding the 4th of July: fireworks, time in or on the water, with lots of delicious food and drink.
Lurking in the shadows of your summer idyll, though, are some very grim statistics. From accidents on the water to traffic accidents to food poisoning to just overdoing it, the 4th of July holiday is 1 of the most accident-prone days of the entire year.
Here are some tips to help you have a safe and fun-filled holiday.
First and foremost, get yourself and your kids to a local pool and learn how to swim. In 2010, 6 teenagers drowned, 1 after the other, after falling into deep water. None of the teens could swim and their efforts to save each other resulted in a tragedy that rocked their small town. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of all people in the U.S. are not able to swim. In 1994, 37% of people in the U.S. reported that they were unable to swim the length of a typical pool. Another study in 2008 found that only 54% of kids ages 12 to 18 could not swim beyond splashing around in the shallow end.
Whether you plan on going to a pool, a lake, or an ocean, or you just plan on staying on dry land in the middle of the country, water is everywhere and kids will seek it out.
Swimming is a vital life skill that you and your family need to have in order to stay safe. Even a young child who slips and falls into a puddle can be seriously injured or even drown if not attended. Get swimming lessons, and then stay vigilant when you are in the water. Drowning does not look like drowning, in most cases, and watching your family frolic can save their life.
After you have your swimming lessons and are comfortable in the water, you are ready to go out on the water for a day of boating, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, or stand-up paddle boarding. One of the easiest ways to prevent injury on the water is to wear a life vest. Whatever your vessel of choice, all ages should be outfitted with a properly-fitting life vest. Even if you are able to swim, a life vest is imperative, especially if you fall overboard and are injured and unable to fully function to tread water or float before rescue.
80% of water fatalities could have been prevented with the use of a life vest. Don’t take a chance: wear a life vest!
Many of us will be driving to our July 4th festivities, but driving over the 4th of July holiday is 1 of the most dangerous days to drive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the only time period more dangerous is the annual 4-day weekend that is Thanksgiving when millions of people hit the road to be with family. Many 4th of July accidents involve alcohol, and the simplest way to stay safe is this: don’t drink and drive.
Not even 1 drink.
Although this may seem extreme, even 1 drink slows reflexes and makes it harder to react. Combine these slower reflexes with fatigue from a day in the sun, and you may be unable to avoid an accident if it happens in front of you.
Similar to drinking and driving is texting and driving. Many states have now passed laws that strictly prohibit texting while driving, and some states have gone so far as to ban talking on the phone while driving without a hands-free device. Be safe: if you need to make a call, pull over and do it.
Finally, always wear a seatbelt, even to run to the store around the corner, and make certain that your children are properly restrained. Their lives depend on you!
Food safety is of paramount importance this holiday. Our celebrations are surrounded by family, fireworks, and food, including Aunt Hilda’s strawberry Jello pretzel salad. Picnics and cookouts can be dangerous places to be for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the food.
At the picnic, the first thing to do is make sure that all of the food is cooked properly and kept at the right temperature. Foods with mayonnaise and other perishable ingredients should be kept in coolers with plenty of ice. Grilled foods should be eaten immediately or properly chilled for later. Keep raw poultry and other meats away from fresh food, and wash your hands frequently to avoid cross-contamination and potential food-borne illness.
Another potential minefield is food allergies or food sensitivities.
Clearly label foods that have allergy-inducing ingredients (such as peanuts, wheat, or dairy), and try to offer foods that are neutral in nature. Fresh vegetables (carrots, celery, cucumbers, and yellow or orange peppers), fresh berries, grilled salmon, and vinegar-based salads with couscous and quinoa are great alternatives if you or a guest are fighting pain-causing inflammation or trying to eat cleaner. Serve as many organic options as possible, and always provide plenty of water or fruit juices instead of sodas and alcohol. For those with chronic pain, it’s even more important to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
If you are on a restricted diet for a pain condition, you may be tempted to throw caution to the wind and eat whatever you’d like. This could be disastrous the next day and cause pain flare-ups. Ask yourself if that sugar-filled dessert is worth the suffering.
Overdoing It: Easy Does It For Chronic Pain Patients
Sometimes we are so happy to be let out of our normal routine to celebrate with family that we forget that we are not as young as we once were, or maybe we are battling a chronic condition such as back pain or fibromyalgia and we play a little too hard. Strains and sprains can result, with trips to the ER a feature of many holiday barbeques.
As you play outside, stay hydrated and as cool as possible. Mix up your activities so that you have can alternate faster-paced activities (such as bike riding or beach volleyball) with slower-paced ones (such as lounging poolside or sitting and chatting in the shade with friends). Wear plenty of sunscreen, even on overcast days, as sunstroke can occur on any hot day.
If you get up and jump around, or boogie-oogie-oogie ‘til you just can’t boogie no more, try to take a moment to warm up or stretch out. Over-the-counter analgesics can fight painful inflammation, as can a few delicious tart cherry juices (which also function as a sleep aid) and ginger beers (instead of traditional beer, for digestion and easing joint pain). Sip plenty of water throughout the day, even when you don’t feel thirsty, as dehydration can bring on painful cramps and be potentially fatal.
Enjoy your time off celebrating the birth of the United States, and happy 4th of July! Stay safe!
- For more safety tips on boating, check out the USCG’s Boating Safety site.
- For more on food safety guidelines, take a look at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s page on cooling outdoors and food safety.
- For 9 surprising ways to injure yourself in the summertime, check out Prevention’s list. Hint: mowing your lawn may be hazardous to your health!
- For fireworks safety tips, check out the National Council on Firework Safety.
Image by bayasaa via Flickr