Later this week, folks from sea to shining sea will celebrate the birth of our nation with glorious displays of fireworks and grilling. And while it may be tempting to go all out with both, doing so can pose serious risks to your personal safety and your digestive system. And since we care too much about you to let that happen, we've put together our very own "(Almost) Complete Guide to Grilling and Fireworks Safety."
We begin where all good Fourth of July celebrations do — at the grill. A few years back, Diane Dressel, a dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, told The Dunn County (Wisconsin) News that while the Fourth of July and summer grilling season in general can be a "challenging time" for our waistlines, there are ways for us to grill our burgers, brats, hot dogs, chicken, steak, ribs and such, and eat them, too. "When we think of barbecues, what generally comes to mind isn't necessarily healthy," Dressel tells the paper. "The good news is that you can have a wonderful gathering of friends and family that also can be healthy."
You can do it, she says, by letting go of the "fat equals flavor" mantra in favor of "lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken breasts and fat-free hot dogs." Portobello mushrooms, potatoes and "other root or sturdy vegetables" also are great on the grill, Dressel says, and don't pose the same health risks that mayonnaise-based salads and side dishes do when left on picnic tables for extended periods. Of course, none of this matters if you set your grill (or worse) on fire in the process. To keep that from happening, the National Fire Protection Association offers these safe grilling tips for both charcoal and gas grills.
And when it comes time for the fireworks, we recommend you heed the timeless fireworks safety tips offered by our cohorts at Mayo Clinic News Network along with our old friends Gus and Raaj Ruparel, M.D., and leave it to the professionals. But if you must light up the sky in celebration of our nation's birthday, Mayo Clinic Health System ophthalmologist Doug Wesely, O.D., asks that you do so responsibly for the safety of yourself and everyone around you.
"When playing with fireworks, injuries to the head, eyes and hands are all very possible," Dr. Wesely tells Mayo Clinic News Network. "And not only are you at risk of harming yourself, you’re at risk of harming others." Dr. Wesely tells the News Network that 19 percent of all fireworks-related injuries affect our eyes. In the unfortunate event that you or your loved ones add to that statistic this year, Dr. Wesley says it's best not to rub, rinse or apply pressure to the injury. Instead, make a beeline for your nearest emergency department.
Of course, you could always turn all of this into a non-issue this year by heeding the most important safety tip of them all. "This Fourth of July, leave the fireworks to the professionals," Dr. Wesely says. "Get your family and friends together and attend your local fireworks display. They'll be bigger, better and, most importantly, safer for you and your family." (Leaving you with more time for eating in the process.)
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