As the summer ends and autumn begins, August is prime time for end-of-summer cookouts. The Military Healthy System offers a range of preventive health information for summer safety, so here are some steps to take to ensure a successful outdoor get together.
- Choose your location carefully
Location is of the utmost importance when planning any gathering. With the weather cooling off, the great outdoors will be host to a variety of pool parties or cookouts, meaning that safety in the outdoors will be a priority.
If your location of choice ends up being the pool or local beach, swim in areas that have a lifeguard present. Keep small children under close supervision and when in doubt, use a life vest to help prevent drowning. The American Red Cross also publishes tips for swimming safety at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html.
For military families, check with your local Morale, Welfare and Recreation office to see what areas on base or on post would provide the best shelter and amenities for your event.
- Protect Your Skin
While often neglected, skin care is important when spending time outdoors. There are two main factors to focus on while outside: protecting skin from the sun and from insects.
With melanoma being the most common form of cancer in the United States, protecting skin from the sun becomes highly important. You can prevent sun damage by wearing sunscreen when outdoors and reapplying after leaving the pool or sweating for an extended period of time. Check out the Military Health System’s article on sun care for more healthy skin tips.
The sun is not the only outdoor factor to be aware of. If your cookout moves from the pool to a more wooded area, your party guests could be exposed to bugs and insects. Bites from mosquitos and ticks can lead to infections like Lyme disease and West Nile virus, so prevent these bites by using insect repellent on exposed skin. Check for ticks or irregular bites frequently. Visit the MHS Bug Week web page at https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Health-Readiness/Bug-Borne-Illnesses/Bug-Week-Page for more information on how to identify bugs and bumps.
- Prepare and Serve Food Safely
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides four tips for basic food safety: wash, separate, cook and chill. Make sure the surfaces and utensils used to prepare food are clean, keep raw meats and foods separate, and promptly refrigerate any leftovers.
Fire safety is also important when it comes to manning the grill at your cookout. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has identified tips for fire safety at the grill, which include maintaining a safe cooking distance and safety zone from the home and objects, keeping the grill clean, and safely disposing of coals.
While preparing and enjoying the meal, remember to drink responsibly if alcohol is on the menu. Avoid operating a car or boat, or the grill, while under the influence.
With a combination of location scouting, proper skin care and safe food preparation, your end-of-summer blowout is one step closer to success. The last step is simply to enjoy.
For more information on preventive health, visit the Military Health System’s Preventive Health page at https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Operation-Live-Well/Preventive-Health.