Summer BBQ Safety

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With the arrival of nice weather, many of us look forward to alfresco dining. Eating outdoors is one of the many joys of the spring and summer. Bringing food for a picnic at the beach or park and grilling at home are not only cost effective, but are often staples of summer fun. Along with the fun, it's important to remember safety during the summer months. Here are a few tips and some things to consider.

When you're in the backyard, declare certain zones only for games and playing and keep these areas away from the grill. Watch children and pets closely, especially if there's a swimming pool nearby. Pay special attention to kids playing with sparklers or fireworks.

When grilling, use long-handled grilling tools and flame retardant mitts. Do not place a barbecue grill in an enclosed space, like a tent. It can become both a fire and a carbon monoxide hazard. Keep the grill away from hanging branches and deck railings and be careful of windy conditions.

If you live in an apartment, before you fire up the grill, make sure you are in compliance with your lease agreement. Many leases have restrictions regarding the use of grills on balconies. Some condominium bylaws may have similar provisions. And you may want to check with your local fire department regarding any local fire codes or ordinances relating to cooking outside.

Protect your skin and eyes from the sun. Wear sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation. Some contact lenses offer UV protection, but not all. Wear sunscreen. Take note of the time of day, your skin type, the amount of sunscreen applied, and your level of physical activity. These factors impact the effectiveness of the sunscreen.

Take steps to prevent food poisoning. When food is taken outside, make sure that hot foods stay hot and cool foods stay cool. Meats, poultry, and fish should be cooked to safe temperatures. Keep raw foods away from cooked foods and wash hands often during food preparation. Make sure fruits and raw vegetables are washed well.

Also be aware of food allergies. Sudden itching of the skin or swelling of the face may indicate an allergic reaction. Label dishes that contain common allergens like shellfish, dairy, soy, wheat, nuts, and eggs. At summer events, we're often around people we may not know very well, so we may not be aware of their health conditions.

Drink alcohol responsibly. Beer, wine coolers, and hard liquors often make an appearance at summer gatherings. Especially when there's a hot grill nearby, everyone needs to be alert and unimpaired to prevent injuries. And when the party is over, someone has to drive home. If you're going to drink, choose a designated driver before arriving at the barbecue.

Summer is more fun when accidents are avoided. These few tips can help keep you and your family safe this summer and ensure that you have many more fun-filled summers ahead.