As anyone with kids knows, few holidays offer as much excitement for the entire family as the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, what makes this holiday so much fun also makes it one of the most dangerous days of the year. Between the fireworks, swimming and hot summer weather, there are plenty of opportunities to sustain serious injuries. The following tips from the American Red Cross will help keep your Independence Day independent from injuries.
Be Extra Cautious Around Fireworks
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show organized by your local fire department. If fireworks are legal in your state and you plan on setting them off at home, be sure to follow these simple safety guidelines:
- Keep a supply of water on hand as a precaution.
- Dont let young children light any fireworks themselves, including sparklers. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
- Always wear eye protection when you light them.
- Light only one firework at a time, and never attempt to relight a dud.
- Store your fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
- Never throw or point fireworks at people, animals, vehicles, buildings, or flammable materials.
- If untrained and/or intoxicated people are setting off fireworks nearby, leave the vicinity immediately.
If you plan on taking your children to a pool, make sure that theyre supervised at all times. Public pools are usually a safer bet since theyre required to have lifeguards. If you plan on taking them to a private pool, make sure that you, your spouse or another adult is watching them from the moment they get in until the moment they get out. Lake and ocean swimming can present additional risks, which the following precautions address:
- Only swim at a lifeguarded beach, and be sure to stay within the designated swimming area. Always obey instructions from the lifeguard on duty.
- Keep alert for local weather conditions. Check to see if any warning signs or flags are posted. If they are, dont go in the water.
- Always use the buddy system. No one should swim alone in the ocean or a lake.
- If your children are very young and/or inexperienced swimmers, have them wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket before they get in the water.
- Watch out for sudden wave action, which can cause you to lose your footing – even in shallow water.
- Be on the lookout for rip currents, which are responsible for the majority of ocean rescues performed by lifeguards every year. Rip currents can occur on any beach with breaking waves and often exist permanently near piers and jetties. If youre caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until youre no longer in the current. Once free, you can swim back towards the shore. If there are signs of rip currents in the area, dont go in the water. Go to a pool instead.
- Keep an eye out for any aquatic life in the vicinity. Water plants and animals may be dangerous and are best left alone.
Limit Your Exposure to the Sun
We all love having fun in the sun, but its best to limit your exposure – especially in July when temperatures can reach record highs. The following precautions will help you avoid sunburn, heat stroke, dehydration, and other sun-related hazards:
- Limit your exposure to direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm, and be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. If you go in the water, reapply the sunscreen as soon as you get out.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water, even if youre not thirsty. Avoid beverages containing caffeine or alcohol.
- To protect your eyes, always wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.
- At the beach, wear sandals to protect your feet from hot sand, broken glass, and other sharp items.
- Be on the lookout for signs of heat stroke. These include hot skin, redness, sudden loss of consciousness, shallow breathing, and a rapid pulse. If you suspect that you or a family member may be suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately. While youre waiting for the paramedics to show up, lie down in a cool, shady place and apply cold wet compresses to any exposed skin.