Chuck, like so many Americans, I love going to summer barbecues but am worried about food poisoning, especially when I don’t prepare the foods myself. Any recommendations? – Jerry E., Rapid City, S.D.
Last week, I began to explain 12 summer health hazards, including high outdoor temperatures, asthma and disease risks at beaches, lakes and even public pools – all of which have increased this year.
Here are a few more of those dozen summer health concerns:
4. Food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, 1 in 6 Americans (about 48 million) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, and the numbers and risks increase during the summer’s hot and humid weather, when bacteria grow faster.
The most common contaminated foods are of animal origin – that is, raw meat, raw eggs and unpasteurized milk. Fruits and vegetables consumed raw can even be a concern, because though cleaning them can decrease contamination, it does not necessarily eliminate it; so local organic produce is always best.
Johns Hopkins University posted some great health tips for avoiding food poisoning (for many more, visit www.JohnsHopkinsHealthAlerts.com/alerts):
- “Food Poisoning Prevention Tip No. 1: Shopping
Avoid packaging that is ripped or leaky when buying perishable products. Choose items that have not reached their expiration date. … Do not purchase fresh, pre-stuffed whole poultry.
- “Food Poisoning Prevention Tip No. 2: Storage
Refrigerate food at 40 F or below; freeze food at 0 F or below. … Save cooked leftovers for no more than four days. Freeze or cook fresh poultry, seafood and ground meat within two days of purchase. Freeze or cook whole cuts of meat within three to five days.
- “Food Poisoning Prevention Tip No. 3: Preparation
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator (never at room temperature), (and) then cook immediately. … Avoid cross-contamination: Use new sanitized cutting surfaces and utensils for each separate food item. Clean fruits and vegetables thoroughly with water before eating.
- “Food Poisoning Prevention Tip No. 4: Cooking
Thoroughly cook meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. … Do not serve raw or lightly cooked sprouts. Avoid them or cook them thoroughly. … Cook ground meat to an internal temperature of 160 F; ground poultry, to 165 F.”
Most of all, if you’re eating summer foods (restaurant or otherwise) that you did not buy, store, prepare or cook, don’t be afraid to ask others (including via company hotlines) how they did all those things.
5. Swimmer’s ear. The CDC estimates that “swimmer’s ear” (technically called otitis externa) results in 2.4 million doctor’s visits and $500 million in health-care costs each year.
Swimmer’s ear occurs when water remains in the ear canal for an elongated amount of time, allowing germs to grow and infect the skin. Swimming, bathing and other water activities increase the risk, and summer humidity can fuel it, as well. Germs found in public waters are one of the most common causes of swimmer’s ear.
The CDC recommends these precautions to prevent swimmer’s ear:
- “When around water, keep your ears as dry as possible.
- “Dry ears after swimming or showering.
- “Refrain from putting objects in the ear canal or removing ear wax yourself because both can damage the skin in the ear, potentially increasing the risk of infection.
- “Talk to your doctor about whether you should use alcohol-based ear drops after swimming.
- “People should consult with their health care provider if their ears are itchy, flaky, swollen or painful or have fluid draining from them.”
6. Foot-and-mouth disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that coxsackievirus A16 causes this viral infection, which results in mouth ulcers and tiny blisters on the hands and feet of younger children. It is spread through saliva, mucous and feces.
A wide range of symptoms and illnesses can precede them, including fever, rash, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and even a cough and runny nose. Look for the rash to show up on the palms of the hands, on the soles of the feet and inside the mouth.
The AAP home care advice for foot-and-mouth disease includes:
- “Liquid Antacid for Mouth Pain: Use a liquid antacid 4 times per day.
- “Soft Diet: Encourage favorite fluids to prevent dehydration. … Avoid citrus, salty or spicy foods.
- “Fever Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen for fever above 102 F … or severe mouth pain.
- “Expected Course: The fever lasts 2 or 3 days. The mouth ulcers resolve by 7 days. The rash on the hands and feet lasts 10 days.
- “Call Your Doctor If: Signs of dehydration develop. Fever present over 3 days. Your child becomes worse.”
Next week, I will continue my list of summer health hazards.
Write to Chuck Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.