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posted on May 23, 2011 16:33


Prepare for a safe and fun holiday weekend


Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial launch of summer outdoor activities, from travel to sports and adventures with friends.  As everyone prepares for coming months of outdoor recreation, a few health tips can make your activities fun and rewarding.


Sun Safety— This Friday, May 27th, kicks off Memorial Day weekend and is nationally designated as “Don’t Fry Day.” More than two million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year in the U.S., which is more than new cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. Every time we sunburn, we increase our risk for skin cancer. It is easy to protect yourself from the harmful UV rays of the sun:

·        Cover up! Cover as much skin as possible with tightly-woven clothing and a hat with a 2–3 inch brim or a shade cap;

·        Use a sunscreen that protects against both UV-A and UV-B sunlight spectrums with an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply regularly, especially if you are swimming.  Don’t forget sunscreen lip balm; and

·        Wear sunglasses that block UV rays and protect your eyes. 


Water safety—Many of Idaho’s rivers are flowing at high levels, with the water extremely cold and hazardous. Plan your boating and swimming trips carefully to avoid fast-moving and dangerous waters. Other measures you should take include:

·        Supervise young children around water;

·        Wear an appropriate personal flotation device (PFD) when boating or tubing. Children should wear a PFD on beaches, docks and riverbanks;

·        Be aware that cold water can cause hypothermia and death in as little as 10 minutes;

·        Avoid boating or swimming when consuming alcohol – drinking alcohol can accelerate the effects of hypothermia;

·        Irrigation canal water might look placid, but it is dangerous to swim in. An average of three children drown in Idaho canals each year.

·        When swimming in pools, remember that some parasites can survive proper chlorination. To protect yourself and others, do not get pool or recreational water in your mouth or swallow it. Shower before entering a pool and be sure to wash the bottoms of your children as well. Adults and children should not swim if ill with diarrhea. Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Take children on regular bathroom breaks, and change diapers in the bathroom, not poolside.


Mosquito and tick prevention--The bites of mosquitoes and ticks can spread disease. Protect yourself and your family:

·        Apply insect repellent approved by the EPA to exposed skin and clothing, following instructions on the product label, especially when applying to children;

·        Check for ticks on clothing, body, hair, and pets after returning from tick habitat; and

·        If a tick bites you, use a fine tweezers or notched tick extractor to remove it as close to the skin as possible and pull upwards with a steady, even pressure, being careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick. Disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.


Food safety is always important, and the summer heat can present special considerations. To avoid unpleasant episodes of ‘food poisoning’ or food borne illness remember to:

·        Wash your hands regularly with a rich lather of soap, especially when working with raw meats such as hamburger or chicken. If you are camping and do not have access to running water, use hand sanitizer;

·        Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Make sure that you have enough ice to maintain cold foods at or below 40°F.  Put leftovers on ice as soon as possible. Any foods that have been ‘left out’ for four hours or more should not be eaten; 

·        Cook meats and leftovers thoroughly to 165°F. Use a long stem meat thermometer to check the cooking temperatures of meats. Most meat thermometers come with specific temperature guidelines for safe cooking. The color of the meat is not always a reliable indicator of whether or not the meat is fully cooked;

·        Keep raw meats separate from other foods like salads or fruits; and

·        Don’t drink out of streams or lakes unless water is filtered or treated first. 


Travel safety—From Memorial Day throughout the summer, more vehicles will be traveling Idaho roadways. Travel safety tips include:

·        Be sure your vehicle is ready for travel. Check the tire air pressure (including the spare tire), along with belts, fluids, and lighting. Don’t overload your vehicle when traveling.

·        Make sure everyone in your car is wearing a seatbelt;

·        Don’t drive distracted by texting or talking on a cellphone, or adjusting an entertainment device. A car traveling at 65 mph covers 95 feet per second. A one-second distraction could result in a serious accident and injuries.

·        Be aware of symptoms of fatigue or ‘highway hypnosis;’ take a break if you feel drowsy;

·        Take your time and be patient; it’s better to get there in one piece. Allow ample space between your vehicle and others and pay attention to the speed limits and other traffic signs;

·        Don’t drink alcohol and drive. Of the nearly 8,000 single vehicle crashes in 2009, 11% involved alcohol or drugs; and

·        Don’t leave your child unattended in the car – even for a few minutes.


Most importantly, be prepared. Idaho’s diverse geography and sunny climate offers endless outdoor opportunities, but accidents or unexpected events can occur at any time. Carry a first-aid kit and enough food and water for an emergency. Always let friends or relatives know your travel plans. With a little bit of planning and by taking precautions, your outdoor experiences can be treasured for a lifetime.