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Summer Health and Safety

A Little Safety Planning Can Go a Long Way at Your Summer Get-Togethers

Photo: Courtesy of Nik MacMillan
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Tammy Franks

Home and Community Program Manager, National Safety Council

There are few things better than a relaxing summer cookout, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks.

From heat stroke and poor hydration, to less-than-ideal outdoor food safety, an afternoon spent around the grill can quickly go from fun to hazardous. Here are some risks to consider at your outdoor gatherings this summer and tips to stay safe.

Heat stroke

In the summer sun, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses can escalate quickly, leading to delirium, organ damage, and even death. According to “Injury Facts,” a resource from the National Safety Council, dozens of people in the United States die each year from exposure to excessive heat and, although infants, older adults, and pets are particularly vulnerable, anyone can be at risk.

To help prevent heat stroke, stick to the shade whenever possible, use and reapply sunblock regularly, and stay hydrated. That means drinking more water than you think you need to and avoiding excessive alcoholic drinks. Wear lightweight and light-colored, loose-fitting items, along with a hat.

Heat stroke can sneak up on you, so pace yourself when outside and seek medical help immediately if you suspect you or someone else is suffering from the condition.

Food safety

Food poisoning is no joke and can be a real risk when dining outdoors. A lack of easy access to soap and water — plus the ever-present heat — can help bacteria form and spread quickly.

Your best bet is to avoid cross-contamination between raw meats and other food items by cleaning everything, including surfaces, utensils, and your hands, after working with raw meats. It’s also essential that everything is kept cool and covered until you’re ready to prepare it, with beverages stored separately from perishables. This can be difficult outside, but a little planning will help you stay safe.

A food-safe thermometer can help ensure your meals are cooked to the appropriate temperatures, but don’t forget about leftovers. It’s important to get uneaten food down to 40 degrees or below within two hours and to always reheat everything to 165 degrees for safety.

Keep safety in mind

There is no shortage of risks to prepare for outside, but a little planning can make a big difference. From always supervising young children around the grill to taking a few minutes every couple hours (and after swimming and sweating) to apply sunscreen, giving a second thought to safety this summer will help keep your friends and loved ones safe.

Tammy Franks, Home and Community Program Manager, National Safety Council, [email protected]

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