This week most Americans will spend more time than usual outdoors in the sun and heat and participate in some way in the fireworks that traditionally accompany the 4th. Yet few of us stop to consider the precautions that can help preserve our health and that of our families and the earth.
Even if you're not planning a day of vigorous outdoor exercise, heat stroke is still a possibility. It is more likely to occur when both the temperature and humidity are high, but there are easy things you can do to prevent it. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, stick to the shade or take breaks from the outside in an air conditioned building to cool off, wear light colors, avoid caffeine and alcohol and monitor yourself and your companions for symptoms typically associated with overheating and heat stroke.
- Keep a Cool Head to Avoid Heat Stroke
As migraineurs, many of us are more sensitive to heat and sun exposure than the average person. So all that advice about keeping yourself cool goes double for us. It's no good to have an otherwise fun day spoiled by a preventable migraine. Try to avoid the temptation to ignore your limits and overdo it. It's all too easy to fall into that trap, but it's just not worth it.
"If you exhibit any of these symptoms," Dr. Heine advises, "get out of the heat, rest, and drink plenty of cool fluids, preferably containing sugar and salt."
Heat stroke's symptoms, similar to those mentioned above but even more severe, initially include profuse sweating; then hot, dry, red skin; high fever; vomiting; confusion; seizures during cooling; and unconsciousness. The blood pressure may be low or high, and lack of sweating is common, though athletes may perspire. The body temperature often will be 105 degrees or higher.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society advises immediate treatment if any of these symptoms are present. "After calling 911," Dr. Heine says, "move the victim to a cooler location, remove heavy clothing, fan the body and wet it down with a cool sponge or cloth, and encourage the individual to drink cool fluids." At the hospital, the patient probably will be given fluids intravenously.
By now we all know better than to spend time outside without wearing a hat and sunscreen, right? Unfortunately, the sunscreen you choose makes a big difference. Some brands contain dangerous ingredients and others are flat out ineffective. The worst offenders fail on both accounts. Environmental Working Group has plenty of good information to help you choose a safe, effective product and find the right balance for you and your family.
- Sunscreen: What Works and What's Safe
Our comprehensive scientific review indicates that 84% of 783 sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients with significant safety concerns. Only 16% of the products on the market are both safe and effective, blocking both UVA and UVB radiation, remaining stable in sunlight, and containing few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards.Review the top sellers list for a quick look at where the brands you're likely familiar with are ranked. Then take a look at the best and worst lists. I think you may be surprised by where a few brands, some natural and some not, ended up.
- Sunscreens: Top Sellers
- Sunscreen: The Best and Worst Lists
Fireworks are beautiful and fun, but they pose dangers to our health and safety and to the environment. Enjoy them, but keep safety your first priority.
Consumer Reports offers the following tips for keeping your family safe from fireworks-related injuries.
- Fireworks Safety Tips for Independence Day
Let the pros handle it. Your safest bet is to leave the fireworks to the professionals and enjoy the big show from a safe distance. No kids allowed. Never allow young children to handle fireworks or sparklers. Never. Older children should only be allowed to use fireworks under tight adult supervision. Keep it legal. Check with local police to see what devices are legal to use in your area. Several states, including New York and New Jersey, ban all consumer fireworks, including sparklers. Check the CPSC full list of state laws. Don't experiment or try to make your own. And, of course, legal doesn't mean safe. According to the CSPC, illegal products cause only about 2% percent of firecracker injuries. Look for labels and read the instructions. The manufacturer's name, instructions, and warnings are required by law. So if they are missing, you probably have a counterfeit product that could be even more dangerous than legal fireworks. A 2004 test by the CPSC and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection of imported fireworks shipments found that nearly 28 percent of the products violated federal safety standards. Check for recalls. Make sure the product you have has not been recalled. Go to the CPSC Web site for recalls. Stay alert. Never mix alcohol and fireworks. Know how it works. A fuse is not a simple wick; it contains powder and is designed to burn from 3 to 9 seconds. Keep fireworks flat. And never ignite them in a container, especially one made of glass or metal. Think ahead. Anticipate what will happen if winds change abruptly. Maintain a safe distance. Don't stand (or keep any body parts) directly over fireworks while lighting them. All clear. Make sure everyone else is out of range before lighting fireworks. Take precautions. Keep a bucket of water handy. Let sleeping fireworks lie. Don't try to relight fireworks that don't ignite. Wait 15 to 20 minutes, then douse and soak them with water and throw them away. Ear and eye guards. Consider wearing hearing protection for items that make noise, as well as eye protection. Fast first aid. If you do get injured from fireworks, seek immediate medical help. For eye injuries, don't rub or apply pressure to the eye itself.
Though keeping yourself and your family safe from fireworks-related injuries should undoubtedly be your first priority, you should also be aware of the residual damage fireworks can cause to the environment.
- Declare Your Independence from Toxic Fireworks Polution
- Fireworks: Fun for the Whole Family or Water Contaminants?
My other tips for treating planet earth with kindness if you're attending or hosting a barbecue or picnic on the 4th are to:
- Avoid disposable plates, glasses and utensils.
- Set up separate trash cans and recycling bins.
- Use essential oils to keep bugs at bay.
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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.