How to Stay Safe from Summer Spoilers This 4th of July

By: Walecia Konrad · June 13, 2023 · Reading Time: 8 minutes

Fourth of July is the traditional start to the season of fun. Barbecues, fireworks, swimming, boating, and everything else that makes summer great has come to define the holiday too.

But July 4th is also a time when a little carelessness can spoil the party. Without the proper preparation, many Independence Day activities can lead to injuries or illness. Here, we offer some smart precautions to take before the holiday celebrations begin.

Top Reasons Why Injuries Spike on the Fourth of July

July 4th can be a perfect storm for accidents. Amateur fireworks, more people on the roads and waterways, and the beginning of the swimming and boating season all have their dangers — especially when combined with alcohol.

Here, the top holiday hazards to watch out for and what you can do to protect your loved ones.

1. Fireworks

Fireworks and the 4th go together like burgers and French fries. Unfortunately, fireworks-related injuries and damages can put a damper on your fun.

Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission listed 11,500 fireworks injuries and 9 deaths in the weeks surrounding the fourth of July. The commission also documented a 25% increase in fireworks-related accidents since 2006. Even sparklers can cause serious burns, accounting for 1,100 of those fireworks-related injuries last year.

In addition to injuries, fireworks can cause major property damage due to fire. If you live in a state that outlaws fireworks, you may have trouble getting coverage for any damage arising from illegal use. That said, if you suffer damage from someone else setting off illegal fireworks, your homeowners insurance likely covers that hazard.

Smart Precautions: The best way to avoid a trip to the emergency room or a hassle with your insurance company is to avoid amateur fireworks altogether. Instead, enjoy a professional show in your community or at the ballpark.

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2. Swimming and Boating Accidents

Water activities at the beach or poolside are a huge part of July 4th celebrations. This may be the first outing of the summer for many swimmers.

In addition, July 4th attracts lots of boat traffic, including people who may be new to boating. That’s even more true in recent years, thanks to the record number of people who purchased boats during the pandemic.

Smart Precautions: The rules for safe swimming are the same for the holiday as they are all summer long: Never swim alone, don’t dive into unknown water, and get out of the water at the first sign of a thunderstorm.

Especially important: Watch children carefully. Drowning is quick and quiet and often happens when caretakers are distracted. Consider designating one adult as the child’s caretaker, then taking turns sharing this duty.

Avoid boating with inexperienced or unlicensed drivers. If you’re taking your own boat out on the water, exercise extra caution and do your best to stay away from heavy boat traffic. Remember that drinking and driving in a boat is just as dangerous as drinking and driving in a car. Your best bet is to leave alcohol on shore.

3. Auto Accidents

More auto accidents occur on holidays, thanks to a higher volume of travelers and an increase in drunk driving. Fourth of July is no exception.

Smart Precautions: Never drink and drive, obviously, and never get in a car with a driver who has been drinking. Try to travel a bit earlier or later than the holiday rush to avoid encounters with less cautious drivers. And consider reviewing your auto insurance policy to make sure you understand what you’re covered for.

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4. Violent Crime

Unfortunately, headlines about violent crime in the days surrounding the Fourth of July are becoming an integral part of this holiday.

Last year’s mass shooting at the Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois, outside Chicago, left seven people dead. It was one of 15 mass shootings over that holiday weekend.

Smart Precautions: There’s not much you can do to prevent violent crime. But being aware that it spikes during this holiday is the first step to staying out of harm’s way. If a large gathering seems like it’s spinning out of control, trust your instinct and make for the exit.

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5. Insect Bites

Outdoor activities attract unwelcome guests: bugs. That includes disease-carrying mosquitoes and ticks.

Most mosquitoes are just annoying, but a small percentage can carry viruses such as West Nile and Zika. Ticks are another pest you want to avoid. They carry Lyme disease and can easily transmit the bacteria to humans through bites.

Smart Precautions: To protect yourself from mosquito and tick bites, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the following:

•   Use an EPA-approved insect repellent . If you use sunscreen at the same time, be sure to apply insect repellent after the sunscreen.

•   Consider treating clothes and camping equipment with permethrin, which remains effective after several washings.

•   Avoid walking in wooded, brushy areas.

•   Whenever possible, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks to protect against bites.

•   Consider sleeping under mosquito netting when camping or staying anywhere without screens.

•   Shower soon after coming indoors. This helps loosen ticks from your skin and provides a good opportunity for a full body check.

•   Last year, another anti-tick hack made the rounds on social media: Wrap double-sided tape around your pants at the ankle to catch the hungry little beasts.

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6. Food Poisoning

Barbecues are another great July 4th tradition. Picnic areas from coast to coast are packed with summer feasters.

But warm weather also means food can spoil quickly. Bacteria grow faster in higher temperatures. Follow these food safety tips to make sure your picnic stays delicious and healthy.

Smart Precautions:

•   Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood chilled in a cooler until you’re ready to cook. If you’re using an insulated cooler, keep the temperature below 40 degrees. One way to do that is to have plenty of ice on hand.

•   Put away leftovers quickly — within two hours of cooking. And if it’s 90 degrees or hotter outside, put away food after just an hour.

•   Cook food thoroughly. Bring your cooking thermometer to the grill, and make sure food is cooked to the proper temperature: 145 degrees for beef, pork or fish. 160 degrees for hamburgers and ground meat. 165 degrees for chicken or turkey.

•   Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food. This can be easier said than done when you’re at a picnic or campsite, but trips to the sink to wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds are well worth the bother. And yes, cold water is fine.

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7. Pet Safety

Did you know that July 4th is one of the most common times for pets to go missing? Dogs and cats are especially sensitive to noise, and the overwhelming sound of fireworks or even a few firecrackers next door may compel them to flee.

Being in strange places such as campsites and vacation destinations can also contribute to pets running off.

Smart Precautions:

This July, try to keep little Loki and Daisy indoors as much as possible. Give your dog or cat toys, bedding, etc., to make them feel comfortable even if it’s bedlam outside. Before the holiday, check that your pet’s tags and embedded chip are up to date. That way, even if they do run off, reuniting will be that much easier.

The Takeaway

July 4th is the official kickoff of summer fun and a time to celebrate. Independence Day parades, picnics, and fireworks are all part of the scene. However, certain 4th of July traditions can also put your loved ones in danger. Injuries from amateur fireworks, auto accidents, food poisoning can turn a fun holiday into a crisis before you know it. But simple precautions can help you avoid the most common summer spoilers.

Another smart precaution? Making sure you have the right insurance. SoFi has partnered with a number of innovative companies to bring personalized and affordable insurance to our members: auto, homeowners, renters, life insurance, and more.

SoFi is always looking out for you.

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Photo credit: Liudmila Chernetska

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