The 5 most common Fourth of July injuries

Family & Relationships

by Robert Risch, MD

Jul 1, 2016

The Fourth of July is a time for barbecues and celebration, but it’s also a time to be extra vigilant about health and safety. The weeks surrounding our nation’s birthday represent one of the busiest times of the year for emergency rooms across the country – for example, last year an average of 260 people per day were treated for fireworks-related injuries during the month around July 4th, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. More than half of these injuries were burns.

Here are some of the most common injuries we see in the emergency department, and how to avoid them:

  • Car accidents. In the past, Independence Day has been one of the deadliest days for drivers. Many people are on the road traveling for vacations and holiday celebrations, which increases the chance of car accidents. Alcohol served at Fourth of July parties often plays a role in riskier driving. Never, ever drink and drive, and be extra cautious of other drivers around you.
  • Face and eye injuries. Since fireworks shoot upward, standing too close can cause serious injuries to the face and eyes. In severe cases, fireworks can cause chemical and thermal burns to the eye, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Always view fireworks from at least 500 feet away. If an eye injury occurs, don’t rub, rinse or apply pressure to the eye and do seek medical attention immediately.
  • Hand and finger injuries. Never light, hold, then throw fireworks, or pick up fireworks that haven’t fully ignited. This can cause serious tissue damage to hands and fingers. It’s better to light fireworks on the ground and move away – or better yet, leave the firework displays to the professionals! Many people think of sparklers as harmless, but they’re actually the most common source of fireworks-related injuries. Closely supervise children when they’re playing with sparklers.
  • Swimming accidents. When it’s summertime in Texas, many of us need a dip in the pool to cool off during those outdoor barbeques. Make sure to never swim alone and always supervise children near a pool. Put a lifejacket on inexperienced swimmers. Keep in mind that drinking and swimming is just as dangerous as drinking and driving – don’t do it.
  • Food poisoning. Everyone loves a Fourth of July cookout, but make sure to handle food properly so that guests don’t become ill. Foodborne illness can affect anyone who eats food contaminated with bacteria or other substances. Always check the internal temperature of meat with a thermometer to ensure it’s not undercooked and don’t place cooked food on the same surface that held raw meat. In the Texas summer heat, don’t leave food sitting outside for longer than one hour.

Injuries are preventable. Take caution this year and make it a safe, fun holiday for your family.

About the Author

Robert M. Risch, MD, MBA, FACEP, is the medical director of the emergency department at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Grapevine. He received his medical degree from University of South Florida College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.

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