Tips to Keep Kids and Teens Safe this Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is a time for fun and celebration; however, families should follow precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable occasion. Not only do parents need to worry about firework safety, but families should also keep in mind alcohol and sun safety, too.

Dr. Tony Woodward, medical director of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, recommends some basic safety tips to keep your kids out of the emergency department this year.

Stay safe around fireworks

First and foremost: The main event on July Fourth is fireworks. Even though they are fun and exciting, they can be dangerous if precautions aren’t taken around kids. The best way to avoid injury is to leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals and attend public fireworks displays. But if you plan to use fireworks at home, Woodward has some suggestions to keep your kids safe.

Children should never be allowed to use fireworks, including the popular sparklers. Woodward says the majority of firework-related injuries to children under the age of 5 are caused by sparklers. “We often see kids with preventable burns and injuries from sparklers,” he says. Sparklers burn at a very high temperature, up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns.

Courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association
Courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association

Those that are setting off the fireworks should also be sure to wear eye protection. Another important tip is to only light fireworks on level ground. “At least 50 percent of kids that we see are not the people who are setting off the fireworks, but the bystanders,” Woodward says. Anticipate the consequences and provide adequate supervision to minimize any chance of injury. Never re-light a firework that has not exploded. If the firework appears to be a dud, be sure to pour water on it before picking it up.

If a child is injured by fireworks, Woodward says, “Remove them from the area and stop the burning. If it is serious, you are unsure or it involves the face, eyes or hands, the child should be seen by a medical professional.”

Avoid heat illness

Don’t forget that July can have particularly hot weather, says Woodward. During a long day in the sun, he recommends that parents be on the lookout for symptoms of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Kids can become very ill if proper safety measures are not taken. Woodward recommends that parents make sure kids drink plenty of fluids and wear lightweight, loose clothing. Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, usually the afternoon.

If your child is experiencing heat cramps, be aware that they can be painful, says Woodward. Stop activity, take a break and encourage your child to drink small amounts of water. In serious cases, heat cramps can lead to heat exhaustion, with symptoms such as pale skin, headache, dizziness, exhaustion and nausea.

The third and most dangerous stage of heat illness is heat stroke. Parents should be alert to symptoms such as vomiting, decreased alertness or loss of consciousness, extremely high body temperature, rapid or weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Heat stroke can be life threatening, so be prepared to call 9-1-1 if symptoms worsen.

Talk to your teen about drunk driving dangers

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fourth of July is one of the deadliest holidays of the year. Many teens find themselves in dangerous driving situations during July Fourth celebrations, especially when alcohol is involved.

Research has shown that nearly 80% of high school kids have tried alcohol. In a Teenology 101 blog post, Dr. Yolanda Evans, with Seattle Children’s adolescent medicine division, offers tips for parents of teens to help keep them safe during summer celebrations. Evans recommends parents keep an open line of communication with their teens, as well as the parents of their teens’ friends. She also encourages a “free phone call” policy so teens know they can call any time of night if they need a ride home.

More safety tips from On the Pulse:

If you’d like to arrange an interview with Drs. Woodward or Evans, please contact Seattle Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or at [email protected].