Enjoy the outdoors this summer – just stay cool and be safe!

Officials offer summer outdoor safety tips to help you and your family have a safe and healthy summer.

“Summer is in full swing with the Fourth of July right around the corner,” said Cook County Department of Public Health interim chief operating officer Sandra Martell, RN, DNP. “Now is the time to get outside and enjoy the summer with your family. Just remember while you are enjoying picnics and block parties, this is the time of year when reports of foodborne illness and personal injuries increase. Follow our basic safety tips to help make your summer memories fun and healthy.”

Heat safety:

When outdoors during periods of high temperatures, take basic precautions to stay cool and hydrated:

  • Drink 1 to 1-1/2 quarts of fluid daily to prevent dehydration. Water, fruit juices and juice drinks are the best choices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they dehydrate the body.
  • Avoid salt tablets and highly salted foods.
  • Plan activities for the coolest part of the day – before noon or in the evening.
  • Wear light colored, lightweight clothing. If you must go outside during the hottest part of the day, wear a hat.
  • Use a sun screen with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15 to protect yourself from sunburn.
  • While outdoors, rest frequently in a shady area.
  • Check frequently on ill family members, the elderly and neighbors.
  • Never leave children, the elderly or pets in a parked car, not even for a few minutes. Brain damage or death can occur from the rapid rise of temperature inside the vehicle.

West Nile Virus:

The most effective way to prevent against becoming infected with WNV is to follow these steps:

  • Get rid of standing water around your home in pet bowls, flower pots, old tires, baby pools and toys. Water that is allowed to stagnate for three or four days becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Make sure your doors and windows have tightly fitting screens and repair any tears or other openings.
  • Keep weeds and grass cut short and keep gutters clean and free of debris.
  • When outdoors between dusk and dawn, cover skin with lightly colored lose fitting clothing and use mosquito repellent with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Always follow the directions on the label.

Food Safety:

Picnics are part of summer fun, but illness should not be. Food safety should be a number one priority:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly before preparing food and after handling raw meats. Scrub fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating foods by keeping each item separate. Wrap foods well.
  • Keep food chilled. Don’t take food out of the refrigerator until it’s time to leave for the picnic. Stock a cooler with plenty of ice and maintain a temperature of 40 degrees F. Replenish ice as necessary.
  • Cook or grill food properly. Make sure you bring a thermometer along to check on temperature. To ensure bacteria are destroyed, cook hamburgers to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, ground poultry and poultry parts to 165 degrees F. Never partially cook food for later use.
  • Put leftover perishable items back into the cooler immediately after grilling or serving. Food should never be left outside for more than an hour. When in doubt, throw it out.

Water Safety:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children ages one to four, with three children dying every day as a result of drowning.

  • Always provide adult supervision while children are in or around water.
  • Make sure kids wear life jackets and always keep floatation devices on hand.
  • Remember that lifeguards are on duty to respond to emergencies, not to supervise children.
  • Maintain gates and fences around residential pools.

Fireworks safety:

  • The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a professionally-operated community firework display.
  • Warn children about the dangers of playing with fireworks – even sparklers which burn at 1,800 degrees F.

Bike, skateboard and inline skating safety:

Cyclers and skaters can easily protect themselves from the dangers of their sports by: checking for faulty equipment, wearing proper safety gear and obeying traffic laws.

  • Helmets can save lives. Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.
  • Wrist guards and elbow and knee pads also greatly reduce injuries related to falls.
  • Watch out for others: skaters, joggers, cyclists and automobiles all share park trails and streets. Always stay on the right side of trails and paths, look left-right-left when crossing and whether on a trail or in the street, and always pass on the left.

For more information and for a list of cooling centers in suburban Cook County, please visit, www.cookcountypublichealth.org.

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