Tuesday is America’s 247th birthday and millions of homeowners will be celebrating with parties on their property. Independence Day is usually associated with hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks, outdoor games and red, white and blue party décor – all fun stuff! But it’s also the most dangerous American holiday of the year, according to the health center at the University of Texas at Austin. Here is a roundup of wellness design-inspired products and tips to keep your celebration (and outdoor spaces) safer and healthier.
While hotdogs cause the most choking injuries, according to the UT team, it’s important to keep side dishes like potato salad and cold slaw chilled to prevent a food poisoning risk.
1. If you regularly entertain or just enjoy dining outdoors, consider adding an outdoor-rated mini-refrigerator to your space. There are stand-alone models and versions that can be built into an outdoor kitchen or bar.
2. If that’s not doable, invest in a cooler that can keep your food from sitting out in the heat of the day.
Speaking of the heat of day, with temperatures climbing into the triple digits in many regions of the country, staying cool outdoors is more important than ever. Your outdoor entertaining space should have coverings over all of its main gathering spaces.
3. That can be a large umbrella or canopy for the dining and seating areas.
4. Depending on your budget, timeframe and homeowner rules, a more permanent structure, like an awning or built-in pergola can work.
5. The cook and helpers should also have a covering for the hours they’ll spend slaving over a hot grill. There are now shelters being made especially for those areas, both temporary and permanent.
6. Coverings alone may not be enough. Ceiling or standing fans can help cool an outdoor gathering area.
7. A misting fan is an even better option to keep guests cool if there’s a water source nearby.
Recreational water activities – a go-to pastime for July 4th celebrations — are among the top four causes of injuries incurred on this holiday, according to the UT health team. At home, that means avoiding accidental drowning in your swimming pool. These wellness design-inspired add-ons to your home can reduce that risk.
8. Add fencing or screens to keep children from running unsupervised into your pool.
9. Another safety measure to consider is an opening alert for your patio door, but that is often unworkable in a party setting with dozens of people moving in and out.
10. Slip resistant decking material is important to keep anyone walking around a pool from falling in. That can be a wood-look composite or a porcelain tile rated for uncovered outdoor areas. (You probably won’t be able to resurface your deck before the holiday, but definitely something to consider for regular outdoor use and entertaining.)
11. If resurfacing a pool deck isn’t an option – especially before this Tuesday! – there are strips or coating you can add to make what you currently have slip resistant.
Outdoor grills, fire pits, fire tables and fireplaces are all popular, and there are a wide range of fuels and configurations available. Fireworks are also widely used on this holiday. Consider keeping yourself, your family, your guests and neighbors safe with these add-ons.
12. If you’re adding flame to your entertaining space, have fire protection handy too. That can be a fire extinguisher or fire blanket stored in an outdoor cabinet close by.
13. Having a first aid kit on hand is helpful too. Many homes and cars have them, and since they don’t get used every day or week, there’s often a scramble to find it.
14. Fireworks are popular at this time of year and carry risks of their own. Last year alone, there were more than 10,000 ER visits due to fireworks, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The National Safety Council offers this advice on its website: If using fireworks at home, never use them indoors, keep them away from your home and any flammable materials, have a bucket of water handy in case of fire, and soak used and unused fireworks for several hours before discarding.
Insects can spoil a party, either by biting hosts, guests and pets or by landing on your food. Ticks are a particular risk, given the dangers of the Lyme disease their bites can transmit.
15. The CDC offers guidance on creating “tick safe zones” on your property. It includes creating a barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and play areas and surrounding wooded areas.
16. CDC guidance also suggests stacking wood in a dry area to discourage the rodents ticks like to feed on. An attractive firewood holder can be a helpful add-on to your outdoor space.
17. Many health-conscious homeowners want to avoid mosquito sprays, while also deterring these pests. For their consideration are candles, lanterns and other repellers. Prevention.com has a round-up of product ratings.
18. Critter safety also means keeping your pets safe and healthy during their time outside. An outdoor shelter for dogs that doesn’t expose their bellies or paws to hot decking is important.
19. Have a non-breakable water bowl that can’t be easily tipped over in an area out of foot traffic to keep your dog hydrated in hot weather. Elevate the bowl for large breeds.
20. If you’re using fireworks or they’re going off in your neighborhood, keep your pets indoors – ideally in an escape proof room or crate, suggests the American Veterinary Medical Association in July 4th safety guidance on its site. This is the time of year they’re most likely to run away, the vets warn. Also keep your pets away from the grill and food scraps; the fatty and fried picnic foods we love are hazardous to their health, they note.