Independence Day is prime time for fun. You’ve got vacations, cookouts and fireworks to look forward to. Fourth of July injury statistics show, however, that it can also be a prime time for getting hurt.
In fact, more preventable deaths happen in July than in any other month of the year, according to the National Safety Council. That’s a scary stat, but there’s good news. Being aware of the most common injury risks can help you and your family stay safe.
Here’s a look at some of the most sobering Fourth of July injury statistics and ways to keep your celebration from turning into a debacle.
Common July Fourth Injuries
So what makes the holiday so ripe for dangerous mishaps? “The culprit is largely a combination of fireworks and drinking,” said Lisa Kingsley-Rocker, MM, BSN, RN, the director of emergency nursing at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts. Depending on the forecast, extreme heat and sun can also play a role.
Sure, fireworks can be festive, but they can also be dangerous and even deadly. “We see a lot of blast injuries from fireworks and also burns. Fireworks that go off in your face can also cause a loss of vision,” Kingsley-Rocker said. Indeed, findings show that nearly 70 percent of firework injuries that strike each year happen in July. Users most often end up burning their wrists, hands or fingers.
Celebrate safely: The safest way to enjoy fireworks is by attending a show hosted by your local municipality. If you choose to use them, light just one firework at a time, never let children handle fireworks, avoid pointing fireworks at others or standing directly over fireworks while lighting them and keep a bucket nearby for fires, according to recommendations by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). (Please note: Backyard fireworks are illegal in the state of Massachusetts.)
While you might not expect it, July Fourth is the deadliest day of the year for car and motorcycle crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And nearly half of crashes involve alcohol consumption. “It’s one of the most common things we see,” Kingsley-Rocker said.
Celebrate safely: Avoid drinking and driving by choosing a designated driver ahead of time, said Kingsley-Rocker. Always ride with your seat belt, and wear a helmet if you’re on a motorcycle.
Around 26 children under the age of 15 drown every year near the July Fourth holiday, reports the CPSC, with even more children taken to the emergency room for near-drownings. Heavy holiday drinking means adults are at higher risk for drowning injuries too, Kingsley-Rocker said.
Celebrate safely: Never let children swim or play near the water unattended, and avoid mixing swim time and booze. Not only can alcohol make you more susceptible to drowning injuries, it also slows your reaction time, making it harder to keep a close eye on kids. If an accident does happen, be prepared. Take a first-aid or CPR training class so you can help out if the worst happens.
Hours spent in the hot summer sun can raise the odds for heat-related ailments such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If you’re enjoying more time outdoors over the holiday, your chances for these problems can go up, Kingsley-Rocker said.
Celebrate safely: “Make sure you stay hydrated when you’re out in the sun,” Kingsley-Rocker recommended. Limit your alcohol consumption too, since drinking can dehydrate you. Seek medical attention if you or someone else shows signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness or confusion, headache, rapid pulse, heavy sweating and skin that seems very hot or red. Pay special attention to children and older adults, as these demographics tend to be more sensitive to extreme heat.
The same factors that up your risk for heat-related problems can also set the stage for sunburn. You’re even more likely to get burned if you’re hanging out on the beach because water and sand both reflect sunlight, exposing your skin to even more UV rays. No matter your skin color, even if it’s cloudy or raining out, you can still get a sunburn.
Celebrate safely: Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before heading outside, and reapply every two hours. Are you planning to take a nap on the beach or by the pool? Make sure you’re under an umbrella and have someone wake you if it looks like you’re starting to get red.
Your Fourth of July plans don’t have to include health hazards. It only takes a few simple steps to have fun — and stay safe — over the holiday. Be aware of the safety risks, take common-sense precaution and make sure your first-aid kit is fully stocked.