Summer time is a great time for picnics, barbecues and other outdoor activities with your family and friends. However, summer is also a time that we need to prepare to protect ourselves from such things as West Nile virus, food-borne illnesses and sunburn.


Summer time is a great time for picnics, barbecues and other outdoor activities with your family and friends. However, summer is also a time that we need to prepare to protect ourselves from such things as West Nile virus, food-borne illnesses and sunburn.
The warm weather can be a perfect environment for food-borne bacteria to multiply. If you are planning to have outdoors eating activities, utilize the tips listed below to decrease the chance of illness-causing bacteria from ruining your party.
Keep it clean. Wash your hands before and after you handle food. Be sure to get under your fingernails, the back of your hands and your wrists. Make sure to wash any utensils used to prepare food before you use them again to serve it.
Keep them separated. Avoid cross contamination by keeping raw meats and seafood separate from other foods — starting at the grocery store. During food preparation, use one cutting board for meat and another one for vegetables, fruits and breads. Also use separate cutting and serving utensils for them.
Cook by the numbers. When you’re standing over a hot grill, you may be tempted to skimp on the cooking time. Or you may just eyeball it to tell when meat, poultry and seafood are done. Don’t gamble. Instead, use a food thermometer to make sure foods have reached the appropriate temperature.
Keep cold things cold. Cold food should be kept at 40 degrees or cooler to prevent bacteria from growing. Transport food in a cooler packed with ice or frozen gel packs.
Keep food in the cooler or fridge until it is time to cook or to eat. When serving, fill a large bowl or container with ice and nestle the serving dish in the ice.
Keep hot things hot. Use dishes that are insulated to help keep food warm. If you’re using a chafing dish or warming tray, periodically check the temperature with a food thermometer. You want the temperature to be at least 140 degrees to prevent bacteria from multiplying.
Know when to throw it away. Food shouldn’t be left out longer than two hours at indoor room temperature. If your party is outside and the temperature is above 90 degrees, cut that to one hour. Promptly refrigerate or freeze any leftovers. However, if the food is left out longer than one to two hours, throw it away to be safe. If in doubt, throw it out.
Remember to wear DEET to protect you and your family from those pesky mosquitoes and to decrease your chances of exposure to West Nile virus. Be sure there is not standing water or tall grass near the picnic area.
Remember to limit sun exposure, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied at least every two hours.
Use water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher. Some medications can increase sensitivity to the sun.
Examples are tetracycline antibiotics, sulfonamides such as Bactrim, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and some fluoroquinolones. Cosmetics that contain alpha hydroxy acids may also increase sun sensitivity and the possibility of sunburn.
For more information, contact your health care provider or the Pottawatomie County Health Department.
As always, have a safe and healthy Memorial Day Holiday and remember: Eat better, move more and be tobacco free.