You won’t find me standing on the corner selling Creole Tamales, or even very long at any outdoor activity in the summertime. Just talking about the heat makes me weak. The first time I experienced heat stoke was about 1965 at the graduation of my cousins from pharmacy school at the University of Mississippi — yes, Ole Miss. We’ve always had a divided household. Seated on the top bleacher of an unairconditioned gynmasium took all I could to stay upright. During my pre-teens, summer camp in Texas brought homesickness to a new level. My sister’s kindness, through embarrasment, and salt pills kept me in camp the two weeks — or was it one that seemed like two — or forever. Once acclaimented I enjoyed some of the activities but I never really recovered from the sickness that can be brought on by too much heat.
The thought of grilling out during the summer months seems a totally rediculous idea, and yet, thousands do it everyday, or so I’m told. Staying too long at the Fourth of July parade in downtown New Iberia inspired me to write today’s food feature. Don’t get me wrong, celebrating Indendence Day, or any patriotic holiday is among my favorite things to do, but not when the heat index is 104. As a reminder, here are a few things to consider.
How to avoid heat stroke on hot summer days.
Summer weather draws many people outside. Warm air and sunshine can be hard to resist, even when temperatures rise to potentially dangerous levels.
Sunburn may be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of spending too much time soaking up summer sun. But while sunburn is a significant health problem that can increase a person’s risk for skin cancer, it poses a less immediate threat than heat stroke, a well-known yet often misunderstood condition.
What is heat stroke?
Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and the most severe form of heat illness that results from long, extreme exposure to the sun. During this exposure, a person’s built-in cooling system may fail to produce enough sweat to lower his or her body temperature, putting his or her life at risk as a result. Heat stroke develops rapidly and requires immediate medical treatment. If not treated immediately, heat stroke can prove fatal.
Are some people more at risk for heat stroke than others?
The elderly, infants, people whose occupations require them to work outdoors and the mentally ill are among the people with an especially high risk of heat stroke. Obesity and poor circulation also increase a person’s risk of suffering heat stroke. Alcohol and certain types of medications also can make people more at risk for heat stroke.
What are the symptoms of heat stroke?
One person may experience heat stroke differently than another. In addition, because it develops so rapidly, heat stroke can be hard to identify before a person is in serious danger. But Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that some of the more common heat stroke symptoms include:
• disorientation, agitation or confusion
• sluggishness or fatigue
• hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
• high body temperature
• loss of consciousness
• rapid heartbeat
Can heat stroke be prevented?
The simplest way to prevent heat stroke is to avoid spending time outdoors in the sun on hot days. If you must go outdoors, do so when temperatures are mild and the sun is low, such as in the early morning or evening.
In addition to being wise about when you spend time in the sun, you can do the following to prevent heat stroke.
• Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and sports drinks that can help your body maintain its electrolyte balance, when spending time outdoors. In addition, avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda and tea as well as alcohol.
• Wear lightweight, tightly woven and loose-fitting clothing in light colors.
• Always wear a hat and sunglasses when going outdoors, and use an umbrella on especially hot days.
• Take frequent drinks during outdoor activities and mist yourself with a spray bottle to reduce the likelihood of becoming overheated.
Heat stroke is a serious threat on hot summer days. Because heat stroke can escalate rapidly, people must be especially cautious and mindful of their bodies when spending time outdoors in the summer.
How to handle raw meats when grillng outdoors.
Cooking over an open flame on a grill in the backyard requires cooks keep watchful eyes on their grills. Charcoal grill devotees must stay nearby as flames grow before settling down as the coals turn gray. Cooks using charcoal grills should also make sure children or pets don’t accidentally run into the grill, potentially knocking it over and creating a fire and/or injury hazard. But even gas grill users must be mindful of safety, checking hoses for leaks before igniting fires and then staying within arm’s length of the grill to make sure everything is working smoothly.
Fire safety is essential when grilling outdoors, but cooks also must prioritize safe handling of raw meats. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has established a host of guidelines to promote safe grilling and the safe consumption of grilled foods and offers the following recommendations to cooks planning to grill raw meats.
• Separate foods when purchasing them. The grocery store might be far away from home, but safe grilling begins at the checkout counter. The FDA recommends consumers separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in their shopping carts and grocery bags to prevent cross-contamination. Keep these items separate when storing them in the refrigerator as well.
• Use separate cutting boards. Another way to prevent cross-contamination is to use separate cutting boards. Designate one cutting board for produce and another for raw meat, poultry and seafood. If grilling more than one type of raw food at once, thoroughly clean the cutting board with soap and hot water between uses.
• Keep separate plates for precooked foods and cooked foods. The FDA notes that cooked foods should never be placed on plates that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs unless the plate has been washed in hot, soapy water. Bacteria from the juices of raw meat can linger on an uncooked plate, compromising the safety of cooked foods placed on unwashed, previously used plates.
• Discard marinades once you start cooking. Marinades used on raw foods should be discarded once the foods are removed from the marinade and placed on the grill. Repurposing marinades to use as sauces can increase the risk for bacterial infections. However, the FDA notes that marinades used on raw foods can be repurposed so long as they are boiled before resuing them.
When grilling raw meat, poultry, seafood or other foods, cooks must be careful to prevent cross-contamination that can lead to bacterial infections.