Summer is in full swing.  Warm temperatures, picnics, barbeques, and 4th of July parades are all hallmarks of this time of year.  It’s a great time to celebrate family, friends and freedom.

Safety is a big concern for everyone at this time of year.  From the heat related concerns like dehydration, sunburns, and heat stroke, to insect, water, and fireworks safety, there’s a lot to think about. With Independence Day right around the corner, and so many of us looking to celebrate, this is a great time to think about it.

There are also specific concerns for those in recovery and they are often intertwined, but that doesn’t mean we all need to stay in our homes.

Whether you spend time at the pool, out on the boat, or in the backyard grilling up the best burgers in the neighborhood, it is important to have strategies for staying safe. Let’s look at some of the things we should keep in mind.

Sun and Heat

Everyone is at risk for sun and heat related illnesses. Looking after ourselves and those in vulnerable populations is important in these hot summer months.  Keeping hydrated and wearing sunscreen, as well as getting out of the sun are simple things that we can do to keep ourselves and others safe. Remember, never, ever leave a child in a vehicle!

Fireworks

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an average of 243 people who go to the emergency room every day for fireworks-related injuries in the month around the Fourth of July. It is important to follow basic safety rules and help others to do the same.

Water Safety

Water safety is a special concern for warmer months.  At the pool, the beach, or floating down the river, following a few simple precautions can reduce the risk of death or injury.

Follow these water safety tips, no matter the source of the water.

  • Learn to swim!
  • Don’t swim alone
  • Learn CPR and other rescue procedures
  • Avoid horseplay
  • Avoid Alcohol
  • Do not leave children unsupervised near water

Boat Safety

When you are boating, there are several tips, in addition to basic water safety, that need to be implemented. Knowing the laws and requirements of your state, ensuring everyone is wearing a life jacket, checking all of your equipment, and being aware of the weather are extremely important safety procedures. So is avoiding alcohol.

According to the United States Coats Guardlcohol use is involved in approximately 1/3 of all recreational boating fatalities. Even those who would never get behind the wheel of their car after drinking often don’t hesitate to grab a drink while out on the water. This is a dangerous mistake.

  • It is illegal in all 50 states to operate a boat while under the influence. Additionally, it is a federal crime.
  • Consuming alcohol while boating can be even more dangerous than it is on land because the environment can speed up the effects of alcohol.
  • Cognitive functions and judgment deteriorate under the influence of drugs and alcohol, impairing the ability to assess situations and make good choices.
  • Physical impairments, like poor balance, lack of coordination, slowed reaction time, decreased peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, and difficulty focusing also contribute to increased risk of injury and death.

BUI is dangerous, illegal, expensive, and easily avoided. Your best bet is to avoid alcohol completely while boating – for operators and passengers alike. Just bring plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and nourishing food and snacks and enjoy your time on the water without the alcohol.

Other summer time safety concerns

Biking, skating, skateboarding, and trips to the playground are popular summertime activities. They are fun and often great exercise, but it is important to remember some basic safety precautions everyone should take. These include wearing a helmet and wrist guards, as well as being aware of your environment.

It is also important to protect against insects. Mosquitos can transmit a number of illnesses, including Zika and West Nile Viruses.  Be sure to use a repellent effective against mosquitos and ticks and reapply regularly. Avoid stagnant water, wearing bright clothing, and perfumes.  Don’t forget to protect your furry friends!

Alcohol, Drugs, and Recovery.

All of the advice above is important for everyone.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t address drug and alcohol use and recovery.

Every risk we have addressed is increased by alcohol and drug use.  When under the influence, our ability to care for ourselves and others is impacted.  We pay less attention, take bigger risks, or simply forget simple things like when it’s time to reapply sunscreen.

That doesn’t mean that those in recovery are not able to celebrate!  From 4th of July celebrations to weekend parties at the lake, there are a lot of ways to enjoy the summer.

For those in recovery

Summer celebrations have the potential to put recovery at risk.  Parties are often centered about alcohol or drugs.  If you are in recovery, know your boundaries and surround yourself with those who are supportive of your recovery. Avoid your old crowd.  Maybe you can find activities with local recovery groups.

It is really helpful to have an exit plan in case things take a turn.  Even if we are confident that our hosts are supportive, sometimes just being in a party environment can make things difficult.  Planning a way to politely excuse yourself from the event if things become difficult or uncomfortable before it becomes an issue can make all the difference.  Your exit strategy and a plan for saying no can allow you to celebrate and protect your sobriety at the same time.

For those supporting someone in recovery

It is usually not necessary for you to host a completely alcohol-free party in order to support someone in recovery. Offer nonalcoholic beverages and be understanding if your friend or loved one needs to leave early. If they do leave early, it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone did anything wrong. It means that the person in recovery is doing something right by recognizing their own boundaries and respecting them.

Remember that everyone’s journey is personal and not everyone is comfortable talking about their recovery.  Whomever you are supporting, don’t tell others about their journey.  Let them decide if and when they share their sobriety.

I wish you all a safe and happy 4th of July and a fun summer.  If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol or drug misuse or a mental health concern, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Help is always available and hope always exists.