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4 steps to a safer Fourth of July

Fireworks display over water.

June 30, 2023—Independence Day weekend can be a surprisingly dangerous time. In 2021, nearly 75% of the 11,500 fireworks-related injuries that sent people to the emergency department happened between June 18 and July 18, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But there's reason to celebrate: Turning your Fourth of July gathering into a safety zone is just a matter of making a few tweaks.

Watch out for fireworks. If you buy fireworks, don't allow young children to play with or ignite them. That includes sparklers and firecrackers. Better yet: View fireworks from a distance, at public displays.

Keep bad bugs at bay. As the temperature climbs, harmful foodborne bacteria double in number every 20 minutes. Every year, 1 in 6 of us gets sick from foodborne pathogens. These safe moves can help keep food fresh and healthy:

  • Give foods the big chill. Don't leave perishable picnic foods, such as egg and potato salads, meat (even if it's cooked), or any dairy-based foods, out for more than two hours. Shorten that to one hour if it's 90 degrees or hotter outside, warns the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Set a timer on your phone as a reminder.
  • Turn up the heat. When grilling, use a meat thermometer and place it in the thickest part of the cut. Ground beef should reach 160 degrees; chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees. That's the temperature meat needs to reach to kill any harmful bacteria.
  • Keep it clean. Before, during and after handling food and before eating, wash your hands. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer.

Be watchful around water. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you're near water, assign a responsible adult to keep a watchful eye on young swimmers. Weak swimmers should wear life jackets in and around swimming pools. And everyone should wear life jackets when boating in natural waters, such as the ocean or lakes.

Safeguard your skin. While you're enjoying the outdoors, the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays can seep in, increasing the risk of skin cancer. To protect yourself, wear a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Slather it on and reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.

Are you applying enough sunscreen? View our sunscreen smarts video to be sure.

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