Ah, bare feet, burgers, and sparklers in the backyard.
Is there anything more pleasant than summertime gatherings?
That is unless you let picnic food sit outside too long, step on a sharp stick, or burn your hand on a firework. Then summer celebrations can quickly go from pleasant to perilous.
"We love our patients but we know they don't want to see us on July 4, or after a barbecue went sideways," says Abbey LeCompte, a WellSpan Urgent Care nurse practitioner. "A few simple steps can keep you safe this summer."
Food safety begins the minute you start handling food and continues until you put it away after a meal.
When handling raw meat, chicken and other poultry, and seafood, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
- Separate it from other food.
- Refrigerate it before grilling.
- Always marinate meat in the refrigerator and don't let marinade that has touched raw meat touch other foods.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure it is cooked to a safe internal temperature:
- 145°F—whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating).
- 145°F—fish (or cook until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork).
- 160°F—hamburgers and other ground beef.
- 165°F—all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs.
When preparing other foods, such as salads or side dishes, make sure to wash your hands while assembling the dishes. Chill ALL leftovers promptly (never leave perishable food out for more than two hours, or one hour if it’s hotter than 90 degrees outside).
Symptoms of foodborne illness include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps or diarrhea. Older adults, young children, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are most at risk. Seek medical attention if you have bloody diarrhea, diarrhea that lasts more than three days, a fever over 102 degrees, frequent vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down, or signs of dehydration such as little or no urination or dizziness.
Of course, anything that explodes or burns can be dangerous. Remember that when your neighbor brings his fireworks haul to the block party.
"Leave the big fireworks to the pros at your local town's celebration," LeCompte says. "You don't want to harm your eyes, fingers, hands, and other body parts. Even sparklers can cause burns, so keep them away from the youngest children and supervise other kids who are using them."
LeCompte shares a fun way to protect everyone's fingers: Put the end of a sparkler into a carrot, making the vegetable into a goofy and safe holder for potentially hot wires.
Here are a few other common-sense tips: Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands. Never re-light a firework that doesn't go off as planned. Discard any used or malfunctioning fireworks in a bucket of water.
Seek help if you have burns on your skin that are red, blistered or swollen, you have ringing or buzzing in your ears, your vision seems impaired or you feel like you have something in your eye, LeCompte recommends.
"Leave the big fireworks to the pros. You don't want to harm your eyes, fingers, hands, and other body parts. Even sparklers can cause burns."
Believe it or not, puncture wounds to bare feet are one of the most common reasons patients come into WellSpan Urgent Care in the summertime, LeCompte says. (Other common reasons: cuts from lawn tools and from falls; head injuries from playground equipment falls and other mishaps; fractures, sprains, strains and trampoline injuries.)
Protect your feet with proper shoes, such as sneakers, particularly if: it’s dark out and you can’t see objects on the ground, you are walking on the street where there can be broken glass or sharp rocks, you are walking in an area with yard debris such as sticks.
"Flip flops are fun for the pool but they don't always offer the best protection," LeCompte says. "Your feet are your transportation. Take good care of them."
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