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The Top 7 Summer Health Hazards

Beach days and BBQ dinners are great, but here's what you need to know to stay safe in summer, too.

5. Picnic Poisoning continued...

"Anything that has mayonnaise, dairy, or eggs in it and any meat products can develop some pretty nasty bacteria after only a couple of hours unrefrigerated," says Stanton. "Every summer we'll have five or six people coming in from the same reunion or family picnic with food poisoning symptoms."

To prevent food poisoning, follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's advice to:

  • Clean -- Wash your hands as well as the surfaces where you'll be preparing foods.
  • Separate -- Wrap raw meat securely and keep it stored away from other food items.
  • Cook -- Bring along a meat thermometer. Grilling meat browns it very fast on the outside, but that doesn't mean it's safe on the inside. Steaks should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees, ground beef and pork to 160 degrees, and poultry to 165 degrees.
  • Chill -- Keep everything refrigerated as long as possible. Store perishable picnic items in an insulated cooler packed with ice, and follow the "last in, first out" rule -- whatever you're going to eat first should go at the top of the cooler.

Mild cases of food poisoning can be cared for at home, Stanton says. Avoid solid foods, and stick with small, frequent drinks of clear liquid to stay hydrated. Once the nausea and vomiting have eased, you can try bringing food back into your diet -- slowly and in small, bland portions (Grandma knew what she was talking about when she recommended tea and toast to settle an upset stomach). If symptoms persist for more than a couple days (or more than 24 hours in small kids), see a doctor.

6. Fireworks Safety

You start to hear the booms, pops, and snaps in mid-June, long before Independence Day arrives. Many people love fireworks, but fireworks don't necessarily love them back. Nearly 9,000 individuals were injured by fireworks in 2009, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, and two were killed. "We see pretty significant hand and eye injuries from fireworks every summer," Stanton says. The safest way to watch fireworks is at a professionally sponsored display. At least six states ban all consumer fireworks, and several more allow them only with limitations. But if you can buy fireworks legally and want to set off a few at home, take these precautions:

  • Keep a hose or fire extinguisher handy to put out small fires.
  • Keep  children away from fireworks. "Everybody loves to give sparklers to kids, but they burn very hot and can cause significant eye injuries," Stanton says. In fact, a sparkler can burn as hot as 2,000 degrees -- hot enough to melt some types of metals. "They can go off quickly and cause burns or just explode in your hand."

To care for a fireworks burn, wrap it in a clean towel or T-shirt saturated with cool water and get to an emergency room to have the injury checked out.

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