It's been 238 years since our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence affirming the United States as a self-governing country.
Independence Day, more commonly known as July 4th, is one of the most popular and patriotic holidays of the year.
Families and friends will be celebrating at the lakes, parks, backyards and homes across the country. You can bet there will be plenty of food, fun and festivities.
To help make this July 4th the best one ever, MedicineNet.com has valuable tips that can help make this joyous holiday a little safer.
- Be a safe swimmer. Never swim alone, and make sure that kids' water play is adequately supervised at all times. Many drownings occur when parents and other adults are nearby, so always have a designated chaperone for water play and don't assume that others are watching the kids. Statistics show that most young children who drown in pools have been out of sight for less than five minutes.
- Fireworks safety. While many cities ban the setting off of fireworks, people do it anyway. There's also counties where the purchase and shooting of fireworks are perfectly legal. The number one rule should be to keep the kids away from the fireworks at all times, and keep spectators at a safe distance. Attending fireworks displays organized by professionals is always safer than trying to put on your own show.
- Drink alcohol responsibly. Alcohol and fireworks can be a hazardous and dangerous combination. Also, have a designated driver to bring partygoers home from the festivities. Remember also that alcohol and swimming can be as dangerous as drinking and driving.
- Review safe boating practices. Lakes and waterways will be packed with boats on the Fourth. Be sure that you have an adequate number of life preservers on hand for extra guests. Become familiar with the boating laws in your area. Lake levels are down in many states, so use caution when diving or jet skiing. The majority of boating accidents occur because of drinking and driving or swimming.
- Cover food and beverages. Bees and wasps are attracted to food and drinks. If someone is allergic to insect stings, you should have an emergency anaphylaxis kit on hand. Wearing shoes, long sleeves, and long pants outdoors and avoiding fragranced body products, bright colors, and sugary drinks can also help prevent bee stings.
- Use sunscreen! Make sure everyone in the family has sunscreen on if they are going to be outdoors. Even babies should have sunscreen applied to protect their delicate skin from the sun's harsh and burning rays. One myth about sunscreen is that people with darker skin don't need it. Not true. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people with dark skin use a minimum SPF of 15. Ultra violet rays from the sun can cause both premature aging and skin cancer. Recent studies have linked sunburns in children with skin cancer later in life.
- Check your prescription medications. Some medications can make you hypersensitive to the sun. The most common medications that are phototoxic are certain antibiotics, antihistamines, acne medications and cardiac drugs, but there are others as well. Check with your physician or pharmacists if you're not sure about the sun-sensitivity medications your family is taking.
- Protect against ticks. If the family is planning a hiking or camping trip, wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks or boots to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases. For your skin, you can use a tick repellent with no more than 30% DEET according to the manufacturer's instructions. Products containing DEET should not be used on children less than 2 months of age and should not be applied to the hands or face of young children. Check yourself (and your pets) for ticks at the end of the day.
- Drink plenty of fluids! It's easy to get dehydrated when kids and adults are active in hot climates. Keep plenty of water on hand and take water breaks often.
- Avoid overheating. The risk of heat illness is increased when participating in strenuous activity or sports. Know the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are fatigue, nausea, headache, excessive thirst, muscle cramps, confusion or anxiety, dizziness, fainting and agitation. Heat stroke can include nausea and vomiting, dizziness, hot, flushed or dry skin, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, decreased sweating and increased body temperature (104 to 106 degrees). Heat stroke can be fatal, so if you notice or experience any of the above symptoms, get medical attention immediately.
- Keep children away from campfires and grills. Gas leaks, blocked tubes, and overfilled propane tanks can be a cause of grill fires and explosions.
- Avoid food poisoning. It's easy to forget about the food once you've chowed down. Plus, people come and go at different times especially at family gatherings. Allowing food to sit in outdoor temperatures can invite foodborne 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. Foods that need to be kept cold should be placed in a cooler with plenty of ice or freezing packs and held at a maximum temperature of 40 F. While mayonnaise and other egg dishes are often associated with food poisoning, any food can potentially become contaminated. Adequate hand washing and food preparation can also help prevent food poisoning.
Have a wonderful July 4th and remember to stay safe!