The annual Fourth of July celebration is an explosive mixture of heat, dehydration, alcohol, and gunpowder – what’s not to like?
This holiday has long been a favorite of young men, who seem to have an unholy fascination the past 1,400 years for things that blow up. Fireworks were invented by the Chinese about 700 AD.
This holiday falls at the peak of summer, which means it’s hot in most areas of the nation, and way past hot here in the desert (Arizona).
Outside activities are usually the order of the day. A Fourth of July BBQ is often part of the fun, and there are those who can spend a pleasant hour or two discussing the intricacies of homemade BBQ sauce.
Cold beer tastes especially good on a hot day and helps wash down some of that great BBQ. Since beer is mostly water, it seems a sensible approach to keeping up with the inner rain forest your clothes have become.
Alcohol is unfortunately a diuretic, making you lose fluids that would be more profitably used sweating away excess heat. Between the heat, dehydration and alcohol, does anyone remember to apply the sunscreen?
Halfway to heat exhaustion and sun burnt, fireworks now seem like a good idea. Fortunately, many men had the foresight to stock up their personal arsenal!
Firework injuries don’t just take place on the Fourth, but also the 30 days before and after Independence Day. In the U.S., the yearly firework injury tally is almost 10,000 people.
Eyes are one of the more common firework injuries and 15 percent of firework eye injuries result in permanent vision loss. Ever notice the pictures of our solders in war zones – they always have goggles on?
Hand trauma is the next most common firework injury; the explosive force of even small fireworks can easily mangle hands. That is a bad injury because hands are intricate, necessary for most things, and difficult to make 100 percent again.
The only way to avoid hand injuries is to not hold the firework in your hand when lighting. Everyone has a scary story about the firework fuse that burned 100 times faster than the rest. Do that one too many times and it will be more than just a story.
Even the lowly sparkler can throw an ember into the eye or do some skin damage. Did you know they burn close to 2,000 degrees? Some close adult supervision is necessary. While supervising you may want to run around with a sparkler also.
Assuming you haven’t lit yourself on fire, the intense summer sun may make you wonder about skin protection. Sunscreen lasts 2-3 hours during outside activities, sometimes even less when swimming.
Put it on the first time long before you go out, and remember to reapply every few hours. If you get distracted, iPhone uses can seek a little help: “Siri, remind me to use sunblock at noon and 3 p.m.” Siri doesn’t want to see you get a bad sunburn.
One more consideration at these all-day parties – food poisoning. The meats and veggies are relatively safe, as are the chips. However, be afraid of room-temperature potato salad or anything with a lot of mayonnaise in it.
Keeping a few things in mind can make Fourth of July a truly delightful holiday. Don’t sunburn to a crisp, drink yourself into a stupor, collapse from heat exhaustion, or blow a finger off.
That leaves enjoying good friends, good food, a professional fireworks show, and good times.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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