It’s time for Fourth of July celebrations — a time with family, friends, fireworks, a backyard barbecue, and maybe a trip to the lake. However, this American holiday is also one of the most dangerous.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health offers the following safety tips for preventing injuries and illness during this year’s Fourth of July activities:
• Obey all state and local laws regarding the sale, possession and use of fireworks.
• A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
• Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
• Make sure you, your kids and others watch fireworks from a safe distance.
• Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
• Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
• Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
• Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing in a metal trash can away from any buildings or combustible materials until the next day.
• Clean: Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and running water before, during, and after handling food. Hold friends and family accountable by asking them if they washed their hands. Wash all surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after preparing each food item.
• Separate: Avoid cross-contamination. Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for fresh fruits/veggies and for raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Also make sure to keep these items separate when shopping at the grocery store, storing in the refrigerator and during preparation.
• Cook: Grill and cook all meat products to the correct temperature. Use a food thermometer to correctly measure temperatures. Hamburgers should be brown throughout, with no pink in the center and reaching at least 160 degrees. Whole poultry should reach at least 165 degrees; and leftovers should also reach 165 degrees when reheated.
• Chill: Leaving food sitting out all day to snack on can cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. To prevent illness, refrigerate easily spoiled foods within two hours. If the temperature is 90 degrees or higher, refrigerate within one hour.
• Illness: Do not cook food for others when you are ill. If you have had vomiting or diarrhea, wait at least 72 hours after symptoms have stopped before preparing food for others.
• Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
• Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
• Grill out in the open, away from the house, tree branches or anything flammable.
• Use long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill.
• Never add charcoal starter fluid or any other flammable liquids when coals have already been ignited.
• Always wear a life jacket when in the water or on a motorized water vehicle such as a boat or personal watercraft.
• Stay alert for local weather conditions.
• Check for warning signs or flags.
• Protect the neck – don’t dive headfirst into the water. Walk carefully into open waters.
• Never let your children swim alone. An adult should always be present and paying attention.
• Always have a phone handy should an emergency arise.
• Follow safe boating practices: use an observer if towing a person, stay a safe distance from the shore and use good judgment operating around other watercraft.
• Chart a safe course. The Fourth of July is sometimes the first and only time people venture out on the water after dark. Visual navigation markers you rely on during the day may not be visible.
• Designate a sober driver. The side effects of alcohol are impaired judgment, reduced balance and poor coordination, which are magnified by the boating environment. It is illegal to operate a boat or water ski with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more.
• Try to limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV levels are the highest.
• Always wear a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 15 with UVA and UVB protection and reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days.
• Stay hydrated and watch for signs of heat stroke — high body temperature, hot, red, dry or damp skin, headache, nausea, and/or passing out. A heat stroke is a medical emergency; call 911 is someone is showing these warning signs.
To receive more information on summer heat safety or proper food handling techniques, visit http://health.ok.gov.