Taking extra precautions to protect from foodborne illness is especially important during hot, summer months. Learn these smart ways to keep yourself safe this summer – and what to do in case you get food poisoning.
Keep it cool.
Put away food after two hours at room temperature or one hour if it’s hotter than 32ºC. Use ice packs and a smaller cooler, so there’s less room for air to circulate. Keep drinks in a separate container. Also store the cooler in the shade, or in your air-conditioned car instead of the trunk.
Bacteria can spread on surfaces, so use separate utensils and plates for raw and cooked meats. Avoid using the meat marinade as a finishing sauce. And wash your hands after handling raw products. Also reach for single-use paper napkins instead of a dishtowel to mop up spills and wipe your hands.
Use a thermometer.
Even charred-looking meat can make you sick. One in four burgers turn brown before they’re safe to eat. That’s why it’s important to use a food thermometer to ensure steaks, chops and roasts get to 63ºC; ground beef, pork, veal and lamb reach 72ºC; and poultry climbs to 75ºC. Measure the temperature in several spots, including the thickest part.
Heat your cold cuts.
Hot dogs and deli meats may harbor listeria, an uncommon but dangerous type of bacteria. Because these infections cause serious illness and even death, it is recommended that all people over age 50 and those with compromised immune systems heat cold cuts and hot dogs to 75ºC. So zap them in the microwave or use a meat thermometer on the grill before digging in.
What to do if you get sick
In most cases, food poisoning does not need medical attention and will clear up in a few days; in the meantime, it’s important to stay hydrated with plenty of water and sports drinks. Avoid caffeine, dairy and sugary beverages, which can worsen diarrhea.
You should also watch for more serious symptoms. If you have a fever higher than 38ºC, vomited for more than half a day, see blood or mucus in your stool or don’t feel better within four to five days, call your doctor. He or she may prescribe an antibiotic or an IV to replace fluids.
Rapid breathing and/or a racing, pounding heartbeat signals that you’re dangerously low in electrolytes; call emergency or head to the nearest emergency room.
Even without these serious warning signs, you should call your doctor if you have food poisoning.