Independence Day is at the height of summer – epitomized by barbeques, swim parties, and road trips. It’s also a time when there is an uptick in emergency visits, as well as tickets and arrests for unsafe driving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 4th of July is the deadliest day on US roads. Fireworks sent over 11,000 people to the emergency room in 2013. Many of the activities that Americans celebrate with include some hidden dangers if not done responsibly. In the spirit of conscientious celebrating, here are some tips to have a safe 4th of July.

  • Be a safe swimmer. Water sports are one of the biggest pasttimes for Fourth of July celebrations, and are unfortunately linked to numerous deaths and injuries each year. Don’t swim alone, and always make sure that kids’ water play is adequately supervised. Drownings often occur when other people are nearby, so always have a designated chaperone for water play. Making the assumption that someone else is watching the kids doesn’t make for safe swimming. Statistics show that most young children who drown in pools have been out of sight for less than five minutes. Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of accidental drowning.
  • Fireworks can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. In Bellingham, some fireworks are legal to use, but many are not. Check with the city and county official websites to find out what fireworks are permitted and where before you spend your money. Keep the kids away from the fireworks at all times, and spectators should watch from a safe distance. Why not attend a professional fireworks display instead if you can, because the show the pros can put on far surpasses anything you could do safely and legally on your own.
  • Keep pets in mind around the Fourth – often the noise can spook an animal, leading to beloved pets getting lost or injured, or just traumatized. Keep them inside, and give them as much comfort as possible. Do not ever light fireworks around pets.
  • Use alcohol responsibly. Excessive drinking and explosives do not mix, and yet for so many the two show up together at many a party. Alcohol and fireworks can be a hazardous and dangerous combination. If you do choose to drink, it can’t be said enough – use a designated driver.
  • Lakes, waterways, and seas will be crowded with boats. Review safe boating practices, and don’t drink and drive your boat. Alcohol consumption while operating boats or other motorized water vessels is illegal, and you can be arrested for a DUI on a boat. Be sure that you have an adequate number of life preservers on hand for guests. Familiarize yourself with Washington’s boating laws before heading out on the water.
  • Not just  people are attracted to the picnic table. Cover food and beverages outdoors to discourage bees and wasps from attending your party. If someone is allergic to insect stings, you should have an emergency anaphylaxis kit on hand, available by prescription only. Wearing shoes, long sleeves, and long pants outdoors and avoiding fragranced body products, bright colors, and sugary drinks can also help prevent bee stings. If someone is stung, here is a great resource on treating bee and wasp stings
  • Wear sunscreen if you know you’ll be outdoors during the day, and keep a bottle handy for extra applications. Ultraviolet rays from the sun don’t just cause a bad case of sunburn, which can take a few days of extreme discomfort before fading. It’s no news that they cause both premature aging and skin cancer over the long term. Even those with darker skin should use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
  • Check prescription medications you are taking. Some of the side effects of prescriptions include sun sensitization, making you more prone to sun burn. If that’s the case for you, try to stay in the shade, don’t expose skin to the sunlight, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. 
  • Summer is the season for ticks, so if you know you’ll be hiking or camping where ticks are abundant, wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks or boots. No one wants a tick-borne disease. Tick repellents can help prevent their  bites, but don’t use products that contain DEET on children less than 2 months of age. Don’t apply those chemicals on the faces of children at all. At the end of the day, do a tick check and make sure no one has hitched a ride into your tent.
  • Heat stroke can take the fun out of any summer day. Make sure you and any children you supervised spends some time inside or in the shade. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid heat illness. If participating in strenuous activities or sports, the risks of heat-related illness increases, as it does for those with chronic medical conditions or elderly folks. Drinking alcohol can promote dehydration, which also increases the risk.
  • Keep children away from campfires and grills. Gas leaks, blocked tubes, and overfilled propane tanks can be very dangerous, leading to fires or explosions.
  • Don’t leave the picnic spread out all day. Food that has been allowed to sit in outdoor temperatures can invite some other kinds of nasty bugs. Have a cooler filled with ice on hand to store uneaten food and beverages that may spoil. Allowing food to sit in outdoor temperatures can invite food-borne illness. The U.S. FDA suggests never leaving food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 F and not more than two hours at other times. It’s not just mayonnaise and other egg dishes that can lead to food poisoning – any food can potentially become contaminated.

Despite a lot of “Don’t Do’s” there are many ways to enjoy a safe summer holiday. At Bill Coats Law, we help those who get hurt or injured through no fault of their own. If you or anyone you know has been involved in an accident, don’t hesitate to call Bill for a free consultation. 

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