Whether it's picnicking in a city park or traveling to a bucket list destination, summer calls us to do something fun. Whatever it may be, check out our Summer Survival Guide first.
We hope these tips will ensure your summer diversions end safely at home, and not in the emergency room.
Irene Maher, Times correspondent
Outdoor food safety
• Pack raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods in separate containers and coolers.
• Transport perishables in the coolest part of the car, not the trunk. The front passenger seat is best, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
• Use clean cutting boards, platters, tongs, knives and other tools for handling cooked foods. Bring extra clean tongs and "burger flippers."
• Bring an instant-read thermometer and use it, especially if chicken is on the menu. Cook chicken, hot dogs and sausages to 165 degrees; burgers to 160 degrees; pork, fish and steaks to 145. In general, cook meats until juices are no longer pink.
• Don't let perishables sit out for more than two hours, or one hour if the outside temperature is 90 degrees or above. Refrigerate perishables below 40 degrees.
For more tips, visit eatright.org
• Don't drink and drive. Take cabs, use ride services or a designated driver, or plan to stay the night.
• Set a good example for children and don't overindulge in alcohol (or food). Kids take notice and mimic adult behaviors later.
• Know what your body can handle. The National Institutes of Health recommends that women limit alcohol to one drink per day, men to two drinks per day. Certain medications don't mix well with alcohol; check with your doctor or pharmacist. Pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant should never drink.
Also, alcohol contains lots of empty calories and contributes to overeating and weight gain.
• Drink water instead of alcohol, coffee or tea.
• Also hydrate with juicy fruits, vegetables with high water content and soups.
• If working hard and sweating a lot, opt for sport drinks with electrolytes.
• Drink before you feel thirsty.
Biting, stinging insects
• Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, para-methane-diol or IR3535, the NIH recommends. However, do not use DEET on children younger than 2 months. Wash repellent off children when they come indoors.
• Avoid using perfumes and scented soaps, deodorant and hair products.
• Don't wear bright colors or flowered prints, which can attract stinging bugs.
• If stung, remove stinger quickly by scraping area with a blunt-edge object such as a credit card or fingernail. Apply ice to reduce swelling.
• For those with severe insect and food allergies, carry an up-to-date auto-injector epinephrine pen.
• Protect yourself from ticks by covering exposed skin, tucking pants into socks and wearing a hat in the woods, bushes and high grass. Check yourself, children and pets for ticks after visiting wooded areas. And shower afterward, using a washcloth to remove unattached ticks, which may crawl on your skin for hours before attaching.
• To prevent breeding mosquitoes, check your property every day and dump standing water.
To watch a video on how to apply insect repellent, visit bit.ly/2uSAwIU.
Avoiding heat illness
• When outside during the day, always seek shade. When shade is not available, limit outdoor activity during high heat and humidity to no more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time.
• Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing; replace sweat-soaked clothing.
• Drink cool water or sports drinks every 20 minutes.
• Remember the kids; children die in hot cars every year. Check the back seat before you exit a car to make sure all children are out. Place personal items like a cellphone, purse or backpack in the back seat as a reminder to check.
Recognizing heat illness signs
• Heat cramps: muscle, leg pain, spasms, cramping. Stop what you're doing, move to a cool place, drink water or sports drinks and get medical attention if symptoms last more than an hour or if you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet.
• Heat exhaustion: heavy sweating; cold, clammy skin; nausea; vomiting; muscle cramps; dizziness; headache. Move to a cool place, apply cool cloths or water to the body, sip water. Get medical attention if vomiting, symptoms worsen or if they last more than an hour.
• Heatstroke: This is a medical emergency. Symptoms are red, hot, dry or damp skin; rapid pulse; headache; confusion; dizziness; nausea; fainting. Call 911 immediately. Move yourself or the affected person to a cool place, apply cool water or cloths to the skin. Do not give anything to drink unless directed by 911.
• Keep babies under 6 months old out of the sun.
• All others should avoid sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• If you must go out, wear a hat with a 3-inch brim and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
• Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Generously apply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
• Check weather conditions periodically when spending time outdoors.
• If storms approach or lightning is in the area, go to a building, covered shelter or vehicle.
• If a tornado warning has been issued, go to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy shelter, away from windows. Use a sturdy piece of furniture or a mattress or blanket to cover yourself.
• Don't drive through or allow children to play in flooded areas.
For more information, visit the National Weather Service website at weather.gov/safety.
• Don't leave medications in a hot car; check labels for temperature limits. Store them during road trips in zip-top bags, in a cooler with ice packs.
• Stay on schedule even while on vacation by setting reminders in your phone.
• Be aware that certain medications should not be mixed with alcohol.
• When traveling internationally, carry a copy of all prescriptions, especially if you take controlled substances like pain medications. Bring spare eyeglasses, contact lenses and cleaning supplies. Carry enough medication for several extra days in case there are travel delays.
• If leaving the country, get recommended immunizations and preventive medications. Buy medical travel insurance.
Safety on wheels
• For bike riding, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises kids and adults to wear a properly fitting helmet, no matter how short the ride, and white or reflective clothing. Attach several reflectors and flashing lights to bikes for evening and nighttime rides. Don't allow young children to ride after dark.
• Those on skates, skateboards and scooters should wear helmets and pads for wrists, elbows and knees. Supervise children age 8 and younger at all times. Avoid riding near traffic.
• For all-terrain vehicles, the AAP says that if children are too young to have a driver's license, they are too young to operate or ride on off-road vehicles. Adults should wear helmets rated for motorcycles.
• When children are in the pool or at the beach, make sure a sober, undistracted adult has eyes on the water at all times, even if a lifeguard is present.
• When children visit, make sure pool fence gates lock properly. Install a pool alarm to protect very young children and make sure you have updated anti-entrapment drain covers in your pool or spa.
• Young children and those who can't swim should wear a life vest when in or around the water. Realize that inflatable "floaties" are not substitutes for approved life vests.
Open water recreation
• Never swim alone.
• Never dive into water of unknown depth or before checking for underwater objects such as large rocks or trees.
• Keep children out of fast-moving water.
• At the beach, be aware of warnings for rip currents.
• In rocky rivers and streams, wear a life vest and helmet.
• Everyone should wear a properly fitting life jacket when on boats, docks or around water, including adults to set a good example.
• Boating under the influence of alcohol, drugs and even some prescription medications is illegal in Florida. Penalties including jail time and fines are higher if there's a passenger under age 18 on board.
Contact Irene Maher at email@example.com.