Avoid Trauma This Fourth of July

By Dr. Michael Jimenez, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Director of Trauma

If there’s one thing that says “summer,” it’s the thought of celebrating July Fourth. Americans across the country fire up the grill, lay out their blankets for the biggest and best fireworks that light up the night, and enjoy libations with friends and family.

But sometimes, the fun comes with risk. In fact, the weeks surrounding our nation’s independence represent one of the busiest times of the year for hospitals across the country. As director of trauma at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, I have seen the aftermath firsthand.

So, before you sing out that Star Spangled Banner, keep these four things in mind to avoid trauma and a serious hospital visit this summer holiday season:

1. DON’T GET BURNED

While all fireworks, including ‘Safe & Sane’ products, are illegal in the city of Pomona and throughout Los Angeles county, injuries from fireworks are one of the most common injuries we see in our trauma center around this time of year. If you’re in a city that permits fireworks, never give them to small children and always follow the instructions on the packaging. Since eye injuries are also very common around Fourth of July, wearing eye protection is key.

2. DON’T DRIVE DRUNK.
Believe it or not, getting to and from that BBQ across town or the fireworks festivities nearby can be one of the riskiest activities during the Fourth of July weekend. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), nearly 600 people will die in car crashes during the Fourth of July holiday period and more than half of the fatal car crashes on Independence Day involve drunk drivers. At PVHMC, we also see an increase in the number of patients involved in motor vehicle accidents during this time of year. The best way to avoid a serious car accident is summed up in three words: designate a driver. Call a taxi, call an Uber, but whatever you do, do not drive drunk, and do not drive buzzed.

3. USE CAUTION AROUND WATER.
With the July heat settling in, many Fourth of July gatherings involve water—a pool, a lake, or a beach. Keep in mind that from 2005 - 2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the U.S. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents—all according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Never leave children unattended around water, even if you are confident they are skilled swimmers. Hire a lifeguard (it’s worth the money!) or designate a non-drinking adult to have his or her eyes on the water at all times. If there is alcohol at a party, encourage the serious partiers to stay out of the water and stay safe.

4. SAY NO TO STRAY BULLETS.
There is no way to avoid a stray bullet, but what you can do is skip being part of this problematic way of celebrating altogether. At PVHMC, we treat a number of gunshot wounds a year, with many victims injured as a result of being hit by stray bullets. This form of gun violence is often overlooked, so it’s vital to be aware if you find yourself at a party where firearms are present.

Sometimes it is the simple reminders of using safety and caution that can make a difference and keep you out of the hospital. If you remember these vital and possibly lifesaving tips as you kick off your summer festivities, you and your family will have nothing but a celebratory Fourth of July holiday.

Here’s to a great summer!

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