Guest Author - Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D, F.A.A.P
As the weather becomes more warm, we have to change gears from homework and carpools to more time outside with our kids. Some handy items to have on hand for any warm weather activity include sunblock lotion, water bottles, Gatorade, and Pedialyte. But those essentials are not the only considerations. Whether heading to the beach or the park, take a minute to think about food, critters, and water safety. A minute of preparation now can spare you injuries and sickness later.
Beginning with food, here�s the bottom line: heat plus food is the recipe for food poisoning. Food poisoning comes from bacteria that thrive on warm temperatures, even room temperature. Symptoms can include anything from an upset stomach to stomach-flu type symptoms. If symptoms do occur, manage them like you would any vomiting illness and call your doctor for advice.
The best way to ward off food poisoning is to keep cold foods cold and cooked foods warm! And, to state the obvious, make sure to cook food, especially meats, thoroughly. Undercooked meats are notorious sources of food poisoning, but cooking meat to the proper temperature will kill even the sturdiest of bacteria. To avoid trouble, on a hot day, get food home fast from the market. A long, warm car ride is all it takes to warm food up enough for the bacteria to move in and set up shop! One tip is to take an inexpensive Styrofoam cooler with you in which to put meats and dairy products until you can put them away at home.
And what is summer without barbeques? Grills -- electric, gas and charcoal -- and campfires can help us to create amazing summer delicacies but can also be profoundly dangerous. Review cooking safety with your family, including: STOP; DROP; and ROLL, and keeping small children away from the cooking area. And, always have a fire extinguisher on hand. You can use these same safety ideas when camping and using kerosene lanterns or stoves.
As for fireworks, they look deceptively easy to use but even small ones cause a big burn. There is good reason they are illegal and only set off in the middle of water by firefighters and other similarly trained folks.
With food and outdoor fun come the critters � and the ones that can pass along illnesses are deer ticks and mosquitoes. First, bug spray with 10% DEET is all you need to keep the critters off your kids. Less DEET will keep the critters coming and more DEET can make your children sick. Deer ticks are the ones that can transmit Lyme Disease. As they are tiny � the size of a pinhead � they can be difficult to detect. That�s why it is important to dress yourself and your kids in long pants and long sleeved shirts, hats, socks and shoes while walking through woods or tall grasses - even in warm weather. Make sure to examine your child�s skin and scalp after playing outdoors and shake clothes out carefully. Ticks have to be on the skin for at least 36 hours before Lyme Disease can be passed along and are simple to remove with gently pressure with a tweezer.
Here's to fun, and safety, for all your warm weather outings!