Tips for a Safe and Healthy Holiday Weekend

State Public Health Director Offers Tips for a Safe and Healthy Holiday Weekend

Remember safe food handling, swimming safety, West Nile virus and tick prevention this holiday

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold wants to remind you of some steps you can take to ensure a safe and healthy Fourth of July.


Picnics and cookouts top the list of summer activities.  But remember, special precautions need to be taken when preparing and serving food during warm weather to avoid foodborne illnesses like salmonellosis.

To help prevent foodborne 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°F or above) and cold foods cold (40°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.
• Any 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
•Milk and other dairy products

The symptoms of most types of food poisoning include severe cramps, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.  Symptoms can begin from 30 minutes to three or more days after eating contaminated food.  If symptoms are severe or last longer than two days, contact a physician.

It is also important to stay hydrated during hot weather.  Do not wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  Make an extra effort to drink a minimum of six to eight 8 ounce glasses of cool fluids daily.


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.


The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites.  Precautions include:   -more-     
• 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.


Infected ticks can transmit diseases including ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and Lyme disease through their bites.  While the number of reported cases of tick-borne illness varies from year to year, many of these diseases have been increasing in recent years.

The best way to protect against tickborne illnesses is to avoid tick bites by taking the following precautions:
• 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.

Following these precautions will help you stay safe and healthy this holiday and throughout the summer.