How to Stay at the BBQ and out of the Emergency Room This Fourth of July

Reviewed by: Jeffrey Saniuk, MSN, RN and FNP-C
Written by: Abbi Havens

The fourth of July is upon us. While we love barbecues, American flag swim trunks, fireworks and boats just as much as the next person, July 4th is the most dangerous American holiday of the year. Stay safe by avoiding these common Independence Day accidents!


They’re big, they’re bad, they’re… hotdogs. While hotdogs may seem like an innocent and patriotic party favorite, they’re actually one of the most commonly choked-on foods in America. Can you see why? You guessed it. They are shaped just like your esophagus. Take small bites, have liquid on-hand and avoid eating hotdogs while intoxicated!

Enjoying your hotdog solo this 4th of July? No judgement here. If you find yourself choking on your hotdog alone, follow these self-administered Heimlich maneuver tips:

  • Make a fist and place your thumb below your rib cage and above your naval.
  • Hold your fist with your other hand and quickly press into the area in an upward motion.
  • You can also achieve a self-administered Heimlich maneuver by quickly thrusting your upper abdomen against the edge of a table, chair or railing.

Choking is no laughing matter. In fact, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S. So, how can you avoid choking altogether? Chew your hotdogs, people.

Car Accidents

Car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury on July 4th and July 4th weekend is the most dangerous weekend for driving of the year. Independence Day leads to a massive influx of cars on the road heading to the lake, the beach or parties. With that comes a devastating increase of drunk driving. Statistics show that 51 percent of fatal car crashes on July 4th involve alcohol. This July 4th, avoid driving if possible, stay alert and never get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. You will save your own life and the lives of others.

Fireworks-Related Injuries

Fireworks and the 4th of July go together like stars and stripes. While we encourage you to enjoy fireworks this Independence Day, fireworks can be dangerous (remember that they are, in fact, balls of fire hurdling through the air at speeds up to 300mph, surrounded by crowds of people). In 2017, eight people passed away due to fireworks-related injuries, and over 2,900 received injuries that required medical attention.

Damage to the hands, fingers, face and vision and hearing loss are the most common fireworks-related injuries. If you must incorporate fireworks into your domestic celebration, follow these safety tips:

  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Back up to a safe distance immediately after igniting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose that is easily turned on close by in the event of fire and to use to douse fireworks before disposing of them in the trash.
  • Do not allow young children to handle fireworks.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Do not place any part of your body directly over a firework while igniting it.
  • Never relight or pick up fireworks that did not fully ignite.
  • Always make sure fireworks are legal before buying or use them.

Luckily, public fireworks shows account for less than one percent of all fireworks-related injuries. So put away the Roman candles and head to your local park instead, okay, Uncle Steve?

Water Recreation Accidents

What better way to celebrate on a hot summer’s day than by cooling off in the pool, heading to the beach or relaxing on a boat on the lake? Recreational water activities are a go-to pass time for July 4th celebrations, but they’re also among the top four causes of injuries accrued on the holiday. Take adequate precautions to keep your party in the pool and out of the emergency room:

  • Just like you should arrange a designated driver if drinking, if children are swimming in a body of water, at least one designated adult should avoid drinking and monitor the water at all times.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Have proper safety equipment in your pool including floats, life rings and a reaching pool.
  • Always wear a life jacket while boating.

The most common boating injuries result from speeding, capsizing (when a boat tips over and spills all contents, human and otherwise, into the water), inexperienced operators, inattentiveness and alcohol. Drinking and operating a boat is equally as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, so don’t do it.

Stay safe, and have a happy fourth of July!

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin, the group practice designed and managed by the faculty and staff of the Dell Medical School, focuses the expertise of a team of experienced medical professionals to deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality. Our experienced healthcare professionals treat each patient as an individual, with unique circumstances, priorities and beliefs. Working with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room, and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.