July Fourth 2008 Best Safety Tips

Fourth Independence day fairgrounds fireworks show

No matter what summertime activity you choose to participate in this Fourth of July - some fun and games with family or friends at the park, a refreshing swim, or a backyard barbecue - those hot and humid days can take a toll on you physically, as well as present some hidden dangers. Here are some tips on how you can manage the heat and keep cool during the dog days of summer.

    * Managing the Heat

    * Healthy Swimming

    * Cooking Outdoors

Tips for Managing the Summer Heat

The risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke rises along with the temperature and humidity. Heat illnesses occur when the body's cooling mechanism becomes overloaded. When the heat starts to rise - slow down. Regardless of your activity level, drink more fluids - your body needs water to prevent dehydration during warm summer days. Stay away from liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar. Stay indoors or in shaded locations; wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; and limit your outdoor activity to morning or evening hours when it is cooler outside.

Signals of Heat Emergencies

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop well after dehydration occurs. Those most prone to heat exhaustion include the elderly, those with high blood pressure, and children. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion include: cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; muscle cramps; heavy perspiring; nausea and sometimes vomiting; weakness; dizziness; dry mouth; and a headache.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. It occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. Heat stroke can occur within 10-15 minutes of the first symptoms. Signs of heat stroke include: very high body temperature (above 103 degrees); hot, dry, red skin; no sweating; nausea; dizziness; confusion, disorientation, hallucinations; or loss of consciousness.

Treatment of Heat Emergencies

If you feel you are suffering from heat exhaustion, it is important to get out of the sun and into a cool place; loosen clothing; drink water/fluids (be sure to avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages); take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath; and rest.

Heat Stroke is a medical emergency - have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim. Get the person to a shaded area; cool him/her rapidly using whatever methods you can (immerse in a tub of cool water, place in a cold shower, spray with cool water from a garden hose); do not give fluids; if convulsions occur, keep the victim from injuring himself; call the hospital emergency room for further instructions if medical assistance is delayed in responding.

Healthy Swimming

Hotel Swimming Pool

Summer time means fun in the sun, and plenty of fun and games in the water - but did you know that germs could contaminate swimming water? Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are spread by swimming in contaminated recreational waters such as: pools, water parks, lakes, and the ocean. Germs causing RWIs can be killed by chlorine, but it doesn't work right away. It takes time to kill germs, and some are resistant to chlorine and can live in pools for days. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself and your family from RWIs.

Swimmer's Ear

"Swimmer's Ear" is an infection of the ear and/or outer ear canal, which can cause the ear to itch or become red and inflamed. More common in children and young adults, movement or touching the ear can be extremely painful. Reduce your risk of getting Swimmer's Ear:

    * Dry your ears after swimming.
    * Check with the pool staff about the chlorine and pH-testing program at the pool. Those with good control are unlikely to spread Swimmer's Ear.
    * Avoid swimming in locations that may have been closed because of pollution.
    * Avoid putting objects (e.g. fingers, cotton swabs) in your ear that may scratch the ear canal and provide a site for infection.

Swimmer's Ear can be treated with antibiotic eardrops - contact your doctor if you think you might have Swimmer's Ear.

Swimmer's Itch

"Swimmer's Itch" is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to infection caused by certain parasites found in contaminated salt or fresh water. You may experience tingling, burning, or itching of the skin. Small reddish pimples may later occur and could develop into blisters. Swimmer's itch cannot be spread from person-to-person, and most cases do not require medical attention. If you have a rash - try not to scratch as this may cause the rash to become infected. You may try the following for relief:

    * Cool compresses
    * Anti-itch lotion; calamine lotion
    * Corticosteroid cream
    * Apply a baking soda paste to the rash

Children are more likely to be affected because they swim, wade, and play in the shallow water (where the parasites are most often found) more than adults, and they do not towel dry themselves when leaving the water. To reduce the risk of swimmer's itch:

    * Avoid swimming in areas where swimmer's itch is a known problem.
    * Do not attract birds by feeding them in areas where people are swimming.
    * Avoid swimming near or wading in marshy areas where snails are commonly found.
    * Towel dry or shower immediately after leaving the water.

Cooking Outdoors

Food Safety is Fun!

No matter what time of the year, more and more people are cooking outdoors. But outdoor cooking during the summer seems to pose a few extra challenges - leaving food out for just a short period of time under the hot sun can result in harmful bacteria rapidly multiplying and it increases the chance of getting foodborne illness. Here are some basic guidelines for safe food handling during the hot summer months:

From Store to Home

    * Purchase refrigerated or frozen items after you have selected all your non-perishables.
    * Put raw meat/poultry in a plastic bag so juices won't cross-contaminate your fruits or vegetables.
    * Immediately refrigerate all perishable items when you get home.
    * Completely defrost meat/poultry, so that it cooks more evenly and doesn't leave raw or poorly cooked places.


When transporting food to another location, whether on a long family trip or just a short distance to the park, it is important to keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth.

    * Keep meats refrigerated until ready to use.
    * Pack perishable food from the refrigerator to the cooler just before leaving and keep on ice until ready to use.
    * Keep cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often.

Hint: Pack beverages in one cooler and foods in another.

Keep it Clean!

Whether preparing food in your kitchen for the backyard grill or putting it all together at the campground, be sure to keep food surfaces clean. And with so many "cooks in the kitchen", or at the grill, make sure to have plenty of clean utensils and platters on hand. To prevent foodborne illness, don't use the same utensils or platters for raw and cooked meats. If you are headed to the park or campgrounds, find out if there is a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparing and cleaning. Or pack both dry and wet cloths for cleaning surfaces and hands. 

Learn more about food safety!
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