7 Tips for a Healthy Fourth of July

Simple steps to stay safe while celebrating Independence Day.

July 3, 2013, 2013— -- intro: Sunshine! Barbecues! Fireworks! Who doesn't love a good July 4th celebration? Well, your hearing for one, and your stomach after your third helping of BBQ, and your skin if you leave off the SPF...See what we're getting at?

The fun times of the 4th can be fraught with peril if you're not careful. But not to worry; we've got the best tips to make sure this is your best—safest!—Independence Day ever.

quicklist: 1category: Tips for a Healthy Fourthtitle: Bring Some Earplugsurl:text: And no, we're not talking about using them to tune out cousin Barry. A new report from Loyola University Health System finds that the sounds of summer—such as fireworks and marching bands—can actually damage your hearing.

In fact, fireworks have a sound decibel of 150, says Jyoti Bhayani, certified audiologist at Loyola University Health System's Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, and ear protection is recommended for decibels above 85. When noise is too loud, it begins to kill the hair cells and nerve endings in the inner ear; so the longer (and closer) you're exposed to loud noise, the more likely you are to permanently damage your hearing.

Toss some plugs in your bag or use your hands to cover your ears in a pinch.

quicklist: 2category: Tips for a Healthy Fourthtitle: Swim in Clear Waterurl:text: Whether you're planning on making a splash at the beach, pool, or even lake, a good rule of thumb is to only dip into clear, good-smelling water.

For lake goers, make sure there isn't any blue-green algae, or slimy, smelly green film floating on the lake's surface. Some forms of this can produce a toxic bacteria (called cyanobacteria) that's bad news for your health.

How Healthy Is Your Beach?

quicklist: 3category: Tips for a Healthy Fourthtitle: Practice Safe Eatingurl:text: Keep from throwing your diet to the (hot) dogs with our 10 perfect-portion plate ideas that show you cookout combos for 400 calories or less.

If you're manning the grill, designate different plates for raw and cooked meat, and don't leave food out in the sun for more than two hours (one hour if the temps are high).

quicklist: 4category: Tips for a Healthy Fourthtitle: SPF in Advanceurl:text: Applying your sunscreen a few days in advance—a couple times a day—means you can significantly improve your skin's protection from harmful rays. Just be sure not to buy into some of the more sketchy label claims with our Sunscreen Decoded Guide.

quicklist: 5category: Tips for a Healthy Fourthtitle: Follow the Heat and Humidity Rule url:text: To keep from dehydrating, implement the 70/70 rule: When the temperature and humidity are both above 70, you enter the dehydration danger zone, says cradiologist Arthur Agatston, MD.

Stay safe by sipping frequently from a water bottle, and drinking plenty of water before, during, and after activity.

quicklist: 6category: Tips for a Healthy Fourthtitle: Alternate Your Alcoholurl:text: You'll probably have a cocktail or two, and the safest way to consume them is to: (a) make sure you have plenty of food in your stomach, and (b) alternate each cocktail with a non-acoholic beverage, like water or decaf soda to help stave off alcohol-induced dehydration.

quicklist: 6category: Tips for a Healthy Fourthtitle: Protect Your Pet url:text: If you're bringing Fido along, remember to apply pet sunblock every 3 to 4 hours to their least hair-covered spots, and use pet-friendly insect repellants. Find more ways to protect your pets with our Summer Pet Safety Tips.