Your Fourth of July cookout could be crawling with hidden health dangers. From your picnic table to your pool, Dr. Lawrence Phillips, cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, and Dr. Robert Segal, founder of Medical Offices of Manhattan, break down the risks — and tell you how to party safely this holiday.
During the summer, Phillips says his office is overrun with patients experiencing dizziness — a common sign of dehydration.
“I think that many people are not keeping in mind the fact that we lose fluid through sweat,” he tells The Post. So keep a water bottle on you at all times and try to consume between 6 and 12 ounces more than you usually would when outside in the heat.
Also, pay close attention to your body on extra-hot days: If you’re feeling fatigued, worn down or nauseated, you could probably use some water. Next, “change your positioning. If you’re standing, sit down,” he says, and put a cold compress on your forehead.
The most dire, but common, symptom of dehydration is fainting — so if you find yourself on the verge of collapse or actually pass out, head to the ER, Phillips says.
So keep a water bottle on you at all times and try to consume at least 72 ounces a day when you’re outside in the heat.
‘You want to make sure you’re drinking as much water as you are alcohol.’
Sorry to be a buzzkill, but booze isn’t great for you in hot weather. “Alcohol can worsen dehydration,” says Phillips: It suppresses a hormone that helps your body retain water, and it also stimulates the bladder — sending you running to the bathroom more than you’d ordinarily need to.
And it doesn’t matter whether you’re drinking tequila or beer — neither is actually hydrating. To keep yourself from shriveling up, “you want to make sure you’re drinking as much water as you are alcohol,” Phillips says. And don’t forget to eat!
Mixing up margaritas? Scrub your hands after. When left on the skin, juices from certain foods — including limes, mangoes, parsley and carrots — can cause a rash or blisters, known as phytophotodermatitis, that can show up one to three days after sun exposure. Fortunately, it’s easily prevented: Just wash your hands thoroughly to eliminate this risk (and maybe prep your margs inside, just in case).
Picnics look good on Instagram, but if you leave food “unrefrigerated or outside, you’re asking for it,” says Segal. “My colleagues and I treat a lot of diarrhea and gastrointestinal symptoms from food poisoning.”
Food should be kept out of refrigeration for no longer than two hours — or, if it’s more than 90 degrees, one hour — according to the Department of Agriculture.
If a meal leaves you feeling a little off, increase your fluids, says Segal. But if your temperature is more than 101 degrees, or you experience blurred vision and muscle weakness, head to the ER — you could have a more serious infection from the bacteria.
Even if the food seems like it’s heatproof, such as a tropical fruit, be wary: In June, eight states (including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York) reported cases of salmonella linked to papayas from Mexico.
When the outdoor heat is intense, it can raise your internal temperature, causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and headache. If any of these start happening, get inside stat, says Phillips — it’s a sign “that your body is not able to handle the increased temperature.” Drink cold water, take a shower and blast the A/C.
If someone is experiencing more severe symptoms, such as confusion, trouble walking, or irregular breathing or heartbeat, “that’s an emergency,” says Phillips. Heatstroke, if left untreated, can cause brain damage and even death.
A meat thermometer just might be your most important grill tool this summer. Segal warns that E. coli can be present in undercooked beef, and salmonella in undercooked chicken.
The USDA says that beef, pork, veal and lamb should have an internal grill temperature of 145 degrees, ground meats, such as hamburgers, to 160 and poultry to 165.
But all might not be well even if you stick to well-done burgers and franks. Studies have shown that oft-desirable grill char — formed when muscle meat reacts to being cooked over an open flame at high heat — can increase cancer risk. The National Cancer Institute advises turning meat often to avoid the dangerous buildup.
Ticks can transmit diseases — including Lyme — and bites “should not be ignored,” Segal says. If you remove a tick from yourself or a loved one, save the tick in a sealed bag with a damp paper towel, and call your doctor, who can advise if it should be lab-tested.
If you fall ill with a rash, fever or body aches a few weeks after being bitten by a tick, call your doctor to see if you should be tested for Lyme. If it’s caught early, you can be treated with antibiotics. Getting tested too soon, though, might not give you the correct diagnosis, since it can take weeks for antibodies to show up, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Swimming after lunch
The old wives’ tale about waiting 30 minutes after eating before hopping in the pool has some truth to it, says Segal. After eating a big meal, blood rushes to your stomach to digest the food. When you get in the pool, blood then wants to rush to your extremities so you can swim, he says. “You’re not swimming as swiftly as you were before you ate. It’s a good idea to wait 30 minutes.”
— Additional reporting by Hannah Sparks
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