Oh, summer. There is nothing quite like enjoying the lazy, hazy days of relaxing by the pool and beach. But summer also comes with its own special set of safety issues. And one such area of concern is food poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these sobering statistics: 48 million Americans (one out of six) get sick from food-borne illness each year, requiring 128,000 hospitalizations and causing about 3,000 deaths.
Most of us know the basic rules of food preparation — such as washing hands before and after touching food and not leaving meat out for longer than two hours — but there are also some less well-known rules.
Here are 10 tips advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
• Carefully examine any canned food (especially home-canned goods) for signs of bacterial contamination. Look for milky liquid surrounding vegetables (it should be clear), cracked jars, loose lids, and swollen cans or lids. Don’t use canned or jarred goods showing any of these signs. Do not even taste them. Throw them away so that nobody else will eat them. (Wrap them first in plastic and then in a heavy paper bag.)
• Buy all meats and seafood from reputable suppliers.
• Do not use raw (unpasteurized) milk, or cheese made from raw milk.
• When making canned food at home, be sure to follow proper canning techniques to prevent botulism.
• Do not give honey to a baby under 1 year of age.
• Do not let prepared foods (particularly starchy ones), cooked and cured meats, cheese, or anything with mayonnaise stay at room temperature for more than two hours.
• Do not interrupt the cooking of meat or poultry to finish the cooking later.
• Do not prepare food one day for the next unless it will be frozen or refrigerated right away. (Always put hot food right into the refrigerator. Do not wait for it to cool first.)
• Do not eat wild mushrooms.
• When reheating meals, cover them and reheat them thoroughly.
If you suspect your child has been affected by a food borne illness, take your child to a doctor to rule out any serious condition, as food poisoning can be life threatening. Once you are home, and treating your child with fluids and rest, look out for these signs of distress:
• Signs of dehydration
• Bloody diarrhea
• Continuous diarrhea with a large volume of water in the stool, or diarrhea alternating with constipation
• Sudden weakness, numbness, confusion, restlessness, tingling, or difficulty breathing.
If your child experiences any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician immediately.