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5 common Fourth of July emergencies

By The Health News Team | Updated July 4, 2023
Person running on the beach in a patriotic swimsuit

Any emergency room doctor will tell you that medical emergency numbers are sky-high on the Fourth of July. Temperatures go up, inhibitions go down, and a mantra of “just have fun” often replaces a sense of safety.

“Anytime people get out and gather, we expect some health troubles to arise,” says Dr. Gregory Apel, an emergency medicine doctor and the chief medical officer of Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Coronado Hospital. “There’s a sense of freedom that doesn’t happen in an everyday routine. And more activities, especially outdoors, can result in more ER visits.”

Dr. Apel advises you to stay healthy and safe this celebratory season. Avoid these five common problems:


Injuries from fireworks

While consumer fireworks sparklers, fireworks, cherry bombs, bottle rockets and poppers are illegal in the City and County of San Diego, they’re still used and can be very dangerous.

Fireworks injuries often include heat burns, bruises and cuts, with the face and hands most frequently affected. Fireworks and pyrotechnics should be administered by highly skilled professionals, who urge those in the community to skip backyard “booms” and leave the displays to them.


Swimming injuries

San Diego’s summer heat is in full swing, turning beaches, lakes and pools into common celebration destinations. Yet pools up the risk for slips, trips and diving injuries — while beach days open the door to a host of possible ocean injuries, such as bites from jellyfish or stingrays.

Most importantly, water celebrations can lead to drowning or near drowning, especially for kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children. And for every death, seven kids receive emergency care for nonfatal drowning.

When celebrating waterside, be smart, vigilant, attentive and stay alcohol-free.


Food prep problems

From beach charcoal to backyard propane grills, BBQs and the Fourth of July go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, so too do food poisoning and food prep injuries.

Be mindful when cutting tough favorites, including cantaloupe or watermelon. Believe it or not, blender issues — such as when shaking up the margaritas — also tend to increase during celebrations.

When cooking meat on the grill, use a thermometer to ensure it reaches a safe temperature:

  • Whole cuts of meat — 140° F

  • Fish — 145° F

  • Hamburgers — 160° F

  • Poultry and hot dogs — 165° F

Additionally, pay special attention to serving platters and utensils used for raw and cooked food dishes to avoid cross-contamination.


Sports injuries

Getting outdoors is a great opportunity to get active, whether you organize a friendly pickleball game, or throw frisbees or baseballs around with the kids. But before you do, take steps to prevent common injuries, such as sprains or strains.

Warming up and stretching can help your body prepare for physical activity, especially for those who haven’t been active or played sports recently. Make sure everyone is wearing proper footwear to support active bodies, and don’t forget to hydrate and rest when needed.


Dehydration and sunburn

Perhaps the two easiest things to forget yet the most important things you should remember are water and sunscreen.

A very broad hydration rule calls for everyone to drink 8 cups of water per day. However, summer heat and lots of activity will up that requirement. Drinking water or sports drinks continuously throughout the day will help you avoid dehydration or heat stroke.

Additionally, be sure to choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and one that protects against both ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays. It should be reapplied every few hours for consistent protection, especially after swimming or sweating.

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