It’s that time of year for farmers’ markets, outdoor pot lucks and, of course, brats on the grill. With a bit of vigilance, you can make this a wonderful summer you’ll treasure because “nothing bad happened.”
The “bad” here is injury stuff. A safe summer is just like safe sex – take precautions and you’ll reduce the risk. The downside to this advice is that no one, including me, wants to hear what they cannot do. There is something un-American about it. But just like we all learned in kindergarten, it’s wise to be safe. So here’s my big five “adult kindergarten summer safety list.”
1. Food safety: Before you go on a picnic or grill with the family, be prepared. Make absolutely sure the cutting board you use to cut that chicken or make those burgers is clean before you cut raw veggies – or you may make a trip to the porcelain goddess.
The bad players here are salmonella and E. coli, which are destroyed when you cook chicken and beef to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Pink chicken is a no-no, but trust a thermometer – it’s better than your eyesight.
For Aunt Sylvia’s special 15-bean salad, make sure to put ice around it to keep it cool.
While we’re here, let me put in a word about mayonnaise phobia. Homemade mayo made with raw egg should never be served at a picnic because you risk salmonella poisoning. Commercial mayo has an infinitesimally small chance of food poisoning, but if you’re still worried use the mayo substitute my mom used, Miracle Whip (I like the taste but I don’t understand the name).
2. Grill safety: I remember when I was 8 years old and I picked up a dusty coal. Boy, oh, boy was I surprised. Kids love to explore, so put up a barricade of lawn chairs around the grill to keep those youngsters out. It just might save you a trip to your local burn unit.
3. Water safety: With two Great Lakes and plenty of tributaries, I fear someone in Buffalo Niagara will have too much to drink, fall out of that boat and drown. And we all have seen stories about some young child who drowns because they didn’t know how to swim and someone neglected to make sure their life preserver was buckled.
Life preservers are the seat belts of the sea; don’t be lax. And for adult nonswimmers, you just might consider making the summer more fun by learning to swim.
4. Sunburn: I remember getting burned as a kid – the skin seemed to peel off like cellophane. The new Food and Drug Administration-mandated sunscreen labeling makes things easier than ever. The real issue is finding one that you like. And don’t forget, a broad-brimmed hat protects the face when you’re out there swinging a golf club. Mark Twain once said: “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Think he was talking about skin cancer?
5. Insects: Every day in my office, it seems like I see a tick bite. If you’re in the woods, wear long sleeves and lightweight clothing, and use bug spray on your clothes (it’s safer than spraying on the skin).
If you see a tick, remove the entire critter head and all with tweezers. If you take a bit of skin, I’d say you’ve done a good job. Those tiny deer ticks have to stay on you for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease. So that may mean taking a nighttime shower to look at your entire skin – and, yes, look at your backside, too.
My spin: Have some fun in the sun, but be prepared.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.