It’s time for another 3-day summer weekend! Independence day is now upon us, and many of us have plans for how we will spend our extra time off work. For many people, it is a time to get together with friends; to eat, drink, and be merry, hang out by the pool or beach, and watch fireworks shows.
Increasingly, more people are doing their own displays rather than travel and deal with crowds and traffic. However, it is imperative that we remember to be safe as we enjoy our holiday. Each year, people wind up in hospitals due to injuries from fireworks and other summer activities.
Here are some tips to enjoy your holiday weekend plans, yet stay safe while doing so.
According to the Red Cross, the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a show put on by professionals. If you choose to go this route, stay at least 500 feet from the area where fireworks are being ignited. If you choose to shoot your own fireworks at home, be aware of your state’s law regarding which fireworks you can legally enjoy in your own back yard. Some states outlaw various types of fireworks, while others do not.
If you choose to shoot off your own fireworks:
• Never give fireworks to small children.
• Adult supervision is required at all times, even with teens and older children.
• Keep water nearby in case it is needed.
• Wear eye protection when lighting.
• Light only firework at a time, and NEVER re-light a dud.
• Store in a cool, dry place away from children and pets. Also, do not store in direct sunlight as this could ignite firework.
• Never throw or point at people, vehicles, homes or other buildings, or flammable materials.
• Never mix fireworks and alcohol. Save the alcohol for after.
Never stay in an area where unsafe practices are used. In addition to being dangerous, it could also be illegal.
Grilling injuries are common, especially during the summer months when more people are enjoying backyard barbeques.
A few safety tips specifically pertaining to the grill:
• Never leave grill unattended.
• Always use grills outdoors.
• Keep children, pets, and any unnecessary people away from the grill while in use.
• Grill in an open area away from tents, trees, houses, decks, or anything else that could be flammable.
• Use tools made for grills that have long handles so as to avoid burns.
• Never add additional starter fluids to charcoal bricks that have already been ignited as this could cause a flare up, and burn the user.
• Follow manufacturer’s recommendations while using the grill.
A few food safety tips:
• Thoroughly cook meats; consuming raw or undercooked meats could increase your chance of food borne illnesses, especially with chicken or pork.
• Don’t re-use platters or utensils for after cooking due to potential for contamination.
• Make sure items requiring refrigeration are cooled appropriately. Do not leave these foods sitting out for extended periods of time. Bacteria replicate more rapidly in heat.
• Use hand sanitizer frequently when hands are not visibly soiled. Wash with soap and water when handling raw meats, or when hands are visibly soiled.
If you are planning a trip to the beach that will include swimming in the ocean, make sure you and anyone you are with is able to swim. Never swim in an area without a lifeguard present. Always follow posted regulations.
Other tips include:
• Stay alert to weather conditions. Watch for flags and other postings regarding safety.
• Avoid alcohol while swimming in open water.
• Swim with a buddy.
• If you have young children or inexperienced swimmers, utilize life jackets in open water or other floatation devices if in a pool.
• Protect your neck and back. Don’t dive into shallow waters, especially headfirst.
• Adult supervision is necessary when children are around water. It is easy to fall and drown, especially with small children.
• Be aware of known and potential plants and animals in the water. Some may be dangerous. Others can wrap around limbs causing injury or death.
• Be aware of current patterns and potential for rip currents. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you get out of the current, then swim toward shore. If unable to swim, float or treat water until out of the current, then head for shore.
• Stay away from piers and jetties as rip currents often exist in these areas.
Sun exposure can be hazardous. Not only is it linked to skin cancer, it can wreak havoc even in the short term and lead to illness, injury, or even death.
Some tips for soaking up some sun safely include:
• Limit exposure between peak hours of 10am and 4pm.
• Wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen, and reapply at least every 2-3 hours.
• Drink plenty of water, and often, even if you don’t feel thirsty in order to avoid dehydration.
• Avoid caffeinated drinks as they can further dehydrate. Instead choose water, coconut water, or electrolyte infused drinks without excess sugar.
• Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
• Wear shoes to avoid burning your feet on hot surfaces.
If outside for extended periods, especially in the very young or elderly populations, monitor for symptoms of a heat stroke which include red, hot skin, changes in consciousness or confusion, rapid, weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. If you or someone else has these symptoms, call 911 and move them to a cooler place if possible without injuring yourself or them. Begin to cool them with slowly by misting with cool water or placing cool cloths or towels on exposed skin. Keep them lying down and watch for issues with breathing.
Stay safe this holiday weekend, and all summer. Happy Independence Day; may we never forget what others sacrificed to make this country great, and what this day is all about.
By: Rachel Clark, RN BSN