September 1, 2021
Be safer this Labor Day weekend by following these tips
MOBILE, Ala. — Summer is drawing to a close, and the final Labor Day events are just around the corner. However, with a large amount of fun also come many health and safety challenges – especially with the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“Thanks to everyone for their efforts in battling COVID-19 by getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Bernard H. Eichold II, Health Officer for Mobile County. “Continue with social distancing, wearing masks, and wearing them correctly, washing hands for 20 seconds, not touching the face, and using hand sanitizer.
“We also need to be aware of water safety, especially boating, personal floatation devices, swimming pools, and staying hydrated. Please keep an eye on tropical weather forecasts and have a personal plan should a storm threaten our area. And we cannot forget about mosquitoes and the possible threat of West Nile Virus.”
Whatever people have planned, the American Red Cross, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these tips to help them enjoy their holiday:
COVID-19 – In addition to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, these measures can help keep you as safe as possible during these times:
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Remember to cover your cough or sneeze.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Wear a face covering when in public and in the presence of someone from another household.
GRILLING — Every year people in this country are injured while using backyard charcoal or gas grills. Follow these steps to safely cook up treats for the backyard barbecue:
• Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
• Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
• Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
• Keep the grill in the open, away from the house, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
• Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
• Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
• Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using grills.
PICNICS — Plan to take only the amounts of food you will use. Most foods are safe for short periods when stored with ice or frozen gel packs in a proper cooler. Creamy or custard foods and salads using store-bought mayonnaise are safe if kept cold in a cooler.
• Because of COVID-19, try to avoid a “buffet-style” arrangement of food. Do not share serving utensils. Try to use disposable cups, plates, and utensils.
• No cooler? Not a problem. Plan your menu using the following items: Fruits, vegetables, hard cheese, canned/dried meats or fish, dry cereal, bread, peanut butter, crackers.
• Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry and ready-to-eat foods, like raw fruits and vegetables.
• Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs.
• Do not leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours – one hour if the outside temperature is over 90 degrees. Keep perishable food in an insulated cooler packed with ice or ice packs.
• At the end of the picnic or as soon as you return home, clean your cooler with water and a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly. Then, make sure to wipe it completely dry before storing it. If lingering odors are an issue, a quick wipe with a vanilla extract-soaked paper towel can freshen things up. Finally, if your cooler has a drain plug, make sure it is open to prevent moisture from accumulating during storage.
SUN PROTECTION — Limit exposure to direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15. Reapply sunscreen often. Remember to drink plenty of water regularly, even if not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. Protect the eyes by wearing sunglasses that will absorb 100 percent of UV sunlight. Protect the feet, because the sand can burn them, and glass and other sharp objects can cut them.
BEACH SAFETY — If someone’s visit to the shore includes swimming in the ocean, they should learn how to swim in the surf and only swim at a lifeguarded beach, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Other safety tips include:
• Keep alert for local weather conditions. Check to see if any warning signs or flags are posted.
• Always swim with a buddy.
• Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
• Protect the neck – do not dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters.
• Keep a close eye and constant attention on children and adults while at the beach. Wave action can cause someone to lose their footing, even in shallow water.
• Watch out for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.
RIP CURRENTS — These are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year and most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. Any beach with breaking waves may have rip currents. Be aware of the danger of rip currents and remember the following:
• If someone is caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until out of the current. Once free, they should turn and swim toward shore. If they can’t swim to the shore, they should float or tread water until free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
• Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
POOL SAFETY – Well-maintained pools are less likely to spread germs. Injuries and drownings are less likely in pools that have trained staff and adequate safety equipment. Before you swim, you can check the pool yourself using the following checklist:
• Look for the pool’s latest inspection results.
• Make sure the drain at the bottom of the deep end is visible.
• Check that the drain covers at the bottom appear to be secured and in good repair.
• Use pool test strips to make sure the water’s pH and free chlorine or bromine concentration are correct.
• Check for a lifeguard.
• Make sure no chemicals are out in the open.
TEMPERATURE — During hot weather, watch for signs of heatstroke — hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing. If it is suspected someone is suffering from heatstroke:
• Call 9-1-1 and move the person to a cooler place.
• Quickly cool the body by applying cool, wet towels to the skin (or misting it with water) and fanning the person.
• Watch for signs of breathing problems. Make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.
INSECTS — Bugs, including mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies can spread diseases like West Nile Virus, Zika, Dengue, and Lyme disease.
• Use EPA-registered insect repellents that contain at least 20 percent DEET for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks for maximum protection.
• Check yourself and your children for ticks.