Stay at the BBQ and Out of the Emergency Room This Fourth of July

Precautions you can take to keep you, your family, and your friends healthy and safe

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

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The Fourth of July is only days away. While we love barbecues, American flag swim trunks, and fireworks as much as the next person, the Fourth of July is the most dangerous American holiday of the year. Stay safe by avoiding these common Independence Day accidents and continuing to take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.


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 like your esophagus. Take small bites, have liquid on hand, and avoid eating hotdogs while intoxicated!

Enjoying your hotdog solo this Fourth of July as you continue to social distance? No judgement here. If you find yourself choking on your hotdog and you’re all alone, follow these self-administered Heimlich maneuver steps:

  1. Make a fist and place your thumb below your rib cage and above your naval.
  2. 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 United States. So, how can you avoid choking altogether? Chew your hotdogs, people.

Firework-Related Injuries

Fireworks and the Fourth 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 300 mph, surrounded by crowds of people). In 2019, 12 people passed away due to fireworks-related injuries, and over 7,300 people suffered injuries that required medical attention. Damage to the hands, fingers, and face as well as vision and hearing loss are the most common firework-related injuries.

If you 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 a garden hose accessible in the event of fire and 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 using them

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

Car Accidents

Most of us are familiar with the dangers of fireworks, but did you know car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury on July 4th? The Fourth of July 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 local parties and other get-togethers. With that comes a devastating increase of drunk driving. Statistics show that 51 percent of fatal car crashes on July 4th involve alcohol.

This Fourth of July, 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.

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 pastime for July 4th celebrations, but they’re also among the top four causes of injuries accrued on the holiday.

These tips can help keep your party in the water and out of the emergency room:

  • Just as you should arrange for a designated driver if you plan on drinking, at least one designated adult in your group should avoid drinking
  • If children are swimming in a body of water, be sure to monitor the water at all times
  • Have access to proper safety equipment, including floats, life rings, and a reaching pool
  • Learn CPR
  • 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 is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly 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.