As I sit here trying to write this week’s blog, I am finding myself distracted by the beautiful, warm sunlight shining through my window. When I look outside, I can’t help but think about the all the summer days ahead – days full of grilling, swimming, biking, and all sorts of fun in the sun. I also can’t help but think that, while summer is a great time to enjoy the weather and the great outdoors, it does not come without some health risks.
A few weeks ago, I posted a blog with tips for keeping children safe during their summer vacation; those same tips are likewise important for adults. Of course, as adults, “summer fun” requires we take into consideration a few additional safety measures. Consider these three, in particular:
- Alcohol, like caffeine, is a diuretic. Overconsumption can lead to dehydration. Enjoy only in moderation and be sure to drink plenty of water (or electrolyte-laden sports drinks) to avoid heat-related illness.
- Alcohol impacts judgment. Not only does impaired judgment present dangers when operating motor vehicles (boats included!), but it also makes it difficult to recognize the signs of heat-related illness. Again, moderation is the key! (http://www.nsc.org/nsc_events/Documents/Summer%20Heat%20%20and%20Alcohol%20(Fnl).pdf)
- Food-borne illness is more common in the summer months because (1) bacteria grow fastest and multiply rapidly in a hot, humid environment; and (2) picnics, barbeques, and camping trips lack the sanitized and safety-controlled environment of the traditional kitchen.
- Cross-contamination is a main cause of food-borne illness. Do not allow cooked food to come into contact with raw meat juices, and be sure to thoroughly clean all utensils and/or containers that may have come into contact with raw meat. Wash your hands and clean surfaces often!
- Be sure to cook all meats thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to ensure proper internal temperature. Do not partially pre-cook meats (this only allows bacteria time to multiply).
- Be sure to keep food properly chilled or refrigerated. Perishable food will perish faster in summer temperatures. Refrigerate leftovers promptly. (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Foodborne_Illness_Peaks_in_Summer/index.asp)
- Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors. Both the grills and trays should be kept clean of grease and fat build-up; and grills should never be left unattended.
- Children and pets should be kept away from grills. Grills should be kept away from overhanging branches and eaves to avoid fires.
- Always be sure to check propane hoses for leaks prior to grilling (especially at the start of the grilling season).
- Never add flammable liquids to a charcoal fire. Keep all starters and fluids out of reach of children. (http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=1714&itemID=41221&URL=Safety%20Information/For%20consumers/Outdoors/Grilling/Grilling%20safety%20tips)
Simply taking these few extra precautions can help us all enjoy our summers to the fullest! And, now that my blog is done, I think I may just give in to the temptation and begin enjoying my summer right now! With caution, of course…