|Just because you're ready to have some fun on this Independence Day holiday, doesn't mean you can't be safe, too.
That's according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, who's come out with a list of reminders on how to stay safe while cooking, being outside, and other things.
IDPH spokesperson Melaney Arnold says one of the most important things that can be done, is making the food you're preparing for your holiday meals as healthy and safe as possible. "Some of the things you want to watch out for if grilling...you want to make sure that foods -- especially meat, poultry, pork -- are properly cooked," Arnold said. "Meat thermometers are the best way to tell if (meat) is properly cooked because color is not always a good indicator."
Arnold says hot foods should remain at a temperature of at least 140-degrees Fahrenheit in order to be eaten safely and not cause illness. She says in addition to keeping hot foods pretty hot, cold foods must also remain cold. "Things like potato salad, anything that has an egg or milk base, you want to make sure that you don't leave out any longer than an hour, because then that can create food-borne illness," Arnold said.
Arnold says frequent hand-washing is a good thing, too, in terms of keeping food-borne illness away as well as other types of illnesses. Other healthy holiday tips the state has include swimming in properly-treated water, avoid swimming at beaches right after a heavy rain, and be sure to use sunscreen and insect repellent.
MORE TIPS FROM THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH:
To help prevent food borne illness:
* Properly wash your hands before handling any food and after handling raw poultry, meat or eggs.
* Thoroughly rinse fresh fruits and vegetables.
* Cook foods thoroughly, especially ground beef, poultry and pork. Since color is not a reliable indicator of doneness, use a meat thermometer to ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature.
* Keep hot food hot (140 degrees F or above) and cold foods cold (40 degrees F or below)
* Make sure to keep raw meat, fish or poultry cold until it is cooked and make sure it does not come in contact with ready-to-eat food (e.g., cheese, sliced onions, tomatoes or bread). Also, never place cooked meats on the same plate or pan that held raw meats.
* Do not leave food un-refrigerated longer than one hour at a time. Some popular cold picnic foods are potentially hazardous and require special care including homemade food that contains eggs, meat or poultry such as: egg, chicken, tuna and potato salads as well as deviled eggs, luncheon meats, sandwich fillings and other ready-to-eat protein foods like milk and other dairy products.
Whether swimming at a beach or at a pool, do not enter the water alone unless a lifeguard is on duty. Sadly, most deaths from drowning occur within a few feet of safety.
At a swimming pool, take the following precautions:
* If no lifeguard is on duty, do not let children swim unless they are accompanied by a responsible adult who knows lifesaving techniques and first aid.
* Look around the pool area to be certain lifesaving devices, such as a floating ring buoy and shepherd's crook, are readily available for emergency use.
* To reduce the risk of eye, ear, nose or throat infection from contaminated water, swim only in pools in which water quality is properly maintained. The water should appear clear, be continuously circulated and be maintained at a level that allows free overflow into the gutter or skimmer. There should not be a strong odor of ammonia or chlorine.
At the beach, take the following precautions:
* Look for water that is reasonably clear and free of floating materials and odors. Avoid swimming at beaches where there are large populations of ducks, geese or gulls. The waste produced by these birds causes high bacteria levels in the water. Look for movement in the water; it helps keep the water clean. Do not swim in stagnant or still water.
* Do not swim at any beach right after a heavy rain. Runoff following a heavy rain may result in a high bacteria level.
* When diving at a beach, exercise extreme caution. Beach water is not as clear as water in a pool, so underwater obstructions may not be visible.
* Avoid having beach water in your mouth or nose.
WEST NILE VIRUS PREVENTION
* Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
* When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
* Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings.
* Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
* Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles.
* In areas where ticks may be present, be sure and check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks.
* Tuck long pants into your socks and boots. Wear a head covering or hat for added protection.
* Apply insect repellent containing DEET (30 percent or less) to exposed skin (except the face). If you do cover up, use repellents for clothing containing DEET or permethrin to treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes) while in locations where ticks may be common.
* If you let your pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Ticks can "hitch a ride" on your pets, but fall off in your home before they feed.
* Remove any tick promptly. Do not try to burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with fine-point tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick.
* Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water; apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
* Keep your grass mowed and keep weeds cut around your home.