What better way to enjoy Independence Day than by spending it with family and friends, enjoying delicious food and summer fun? Reduce your risk of injury and illness during your celebration with these safety tips from WVU Medicine physician Carmen Burrell, DO.
1. Store perishable foods at the proper temperature.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans (48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness (food poisoning) each year, causing about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Perishable foods, including meat (e.g., beef, poultry, fish), dairy products, and cooked leftovers, are prone to spoil and become unsafe to eat if they are not kept refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below – or frozen. Don’t leave perishable foods out for more than two hours if the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90 degrees. If you don’t know how long food has been sitting out, throw it in the trash immediately.
2. Take more hydration breaks.
If you’re out in the sun for a long period of time, you’re at risk of heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke. Carry a water bottle with you while outside, and drink more water when you’re physically active. Women should drink 91 ounces of water a day, and men should drink 125 ounces a day. Remind yourself to hydrate by setting an alarm on your smartphone. Avoid or limit heavily sweetened beverages as they can increase dehydration.
3. Celebrate safely if you’re drinking alcohol.
Consuming alcohol can lead to dehydration, especially in high temperatures. Pace yourself by alternating between non-alcoholic beverages and alcoholic drinks or set a limit on the number of drinks you’ll have. Plan for a sober driver in advance or schedule a cab ride. Don’t use fireworks if you’ve had too much to drink.
4. Protect your skin from the sun.
During peak times of the day, wear sunscreen and protective clothing to shield your skin. Re-apply sunscreen as directed in the product information. Use umbrellas or tents to help protect yourself from harmful UV rays. If you get a sunburn, take a pain reliever, apply a moisturizer, and avoid breaking any small blisters.
5. Use caution with fireworks.
Improper use of fireworks most commonly causes injuries to the hands, fingers, head, face, and ears. If you do light fireworks, light the fuse quickly and then walk away. Have a bucket of water close by in case of emergency. Never let children play with or ignite fireworks, even sparklers, as they can reach temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees. Make sure all bystanders and pets are a safe distance away from the area where you are lighting fireworks. Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
Wishing you a safe and happy Fourth of July!