Tips for a Fun, Safe Memorial Day

Memorial Day health safety precautions can keep your loved ones safe and happy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

Food, fun and sun — what’s not to like about having a day off on Memorial Day? Whether you're planning to enjoy a backyard barbecue or a day at the beach, use these tips to make sure you and your family stay safe and healthy this holiday weekend.

As families across the country get ready to kick off the summer and honor our military heroes this weekend, they may get lost in all the fun — but many popular summer activities have serious risks. Ross Tobleman, MD, medical director in the emergency department at Scott & White Healthcare in Round Rock, TX, said dangers may include barbecue fires, food poisoning and — if the weather really warms up — dehydration or heat exhaustion. Driving and boating accidents (often fueled by alcohol consumption) also tend to increase over the Memorial Day holiday.

Watch That Flame

It's that time of the year when the grill is smoking, the foods are sizzling and mouths are watering — but make sure your cookout doesn’t result in smoking more than just the burgers.

“If you’re hosting a barbecue with guests, before lighting briquettes or firing up a gas grill, be sure to have a water source close by," Dr. Tobleman said.

Place a working hose or bucket of water in an easily reachable place near the grill and make sure your grill is far away from any flammable objects, such as outdoor walls, overhangs or patio railings, Dr. Tobleman said.

If you use a marinade on your meats, keep the food cold until you’re ready to cook.

Prevent Tummy Aches or Worse

Memorial Day and picnics often go hand-in-hand. To prevent foodborne illness, follow some basic precautions.

Keep cold foods cold. Use an insulated cooler with plenty of ice to keep food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Keep your cooler out of direct sunlight, and don’t open the lid too often. Leftovers should also be cooled as quickly as possible after a meal.

It may be a little harder to keep hands and utensils clean at a picnic, so pack wet washcloths, towelettes, or food-safe sprays to clean hands and surfaces.

Don’t Get Heated Up

Although summer technically doesn’t begin for almost a month, Memorial Day temperatures in some areas of the country can get downright hot. To prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion, wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Take a hat, sunglasses or an umbrella for sun protection and a spray bottle filled with water to help you stay cool.

A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher is the best choice to prevent sunburn. Reapply every two hours, especially if you swim or get sweaty. Apply to all exposed skin about 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside.

Remember to drink plenty of fluids, too. Water is the best choice — tea, coffee, sodas and alcohol can actually lead to dehydration.

Play Safe on the Water

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of recreation season. If you're planning on boating or swimming, follow some basic safety rules when in or near the water.

Wear properly fitted life jackets when boating — making sure to supervise children, even if the child is wearing a life jacket.

Don’t swim alone or in bad weather and never dive into water before you have carefully checked the depth.

Take a CPR class and keep your certification card current — someone's life could depend on it!

Drink Responsibly

Alcohol can make the party more enjoyable for some, but drinking increases some Memorial Day risks. If you drive or plan to go boating, designate a sober driver or don't drink.

Talk to your teenagers about this risk as well.

Take the keys from anyone who seems impaired — they may not be able to drive safely.

Review Date: 
May 18, 2015