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Tips for a Healthy Memorial Day Weekend and For Being Healthy Outdoors

Ahead of Memorial Day, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is issuing a reminder about the important steps people should take to stay healthy and safe this weekend and this summer.

Travel responsibly

Never drink and drive. Additionally, never drive after using other substances that impair your ability to drive safely. Substances that impair your ability to drive safely include cannabis, illegal drugs, many types of prescription medicines, and some over-the-counter medicines.

If you have been drinking alcohol and/or using drugs, get a ride home with a driver who has not been drinking or using drugs, use a rideshare service, or call a taxi.

Roughly 30% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States involve an alcohol-impaired driver.

Food safety

Proper handling, preparation, cooking, and storing are key to keeping food safe and preventing food-borne illness year-round. However, these precautions are essential as the weather gets warmer, and people start grilling outside.

When handling and grilling raw meat, chicken and other poultry, and seafood, people should:

• Separate the raw food to be grilled from other food. • Refrigerate before grilling or cooking. • Never thaw or marinate on the counter. • Wash your hands before and after handling. • Ensure its juices do not touch other food, utensils, and surfaces. • Use a food thermometer to ensure it is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Additional food safety tips include:

• Wash work surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after cooking. • If you are grilling, use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill's surface for loose bristles before cooking. Wire bristles can become loose and get stuck in food. • Divide leftovers into small portions and place them in covered, shallow containers. Put them in the freezer or refrigerator within two hours of cooking (within one hour if above 90°F outside).

Sun safety and beaches

• Rhode Islanders are also reminded to protect themselves from the sun's rays and enjoy the beach safely this summer. RIDOH will monitor beach water quality for bacteria this year from May 28 to Labor Day. • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 whenever spending time outdoors, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reapply every two hours—more frequently if you're sweating or swimming. • Keep newborn babies and infants up to age 6 months out of direct sunlight. For children older than age 6 months, consult the over-the-counter Drug Facts label on sunscreens before applying. Many parents prefer using SPF 50+ broad-spectrum sunscreen for children. • Wear polarized sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection to keep your eyes from harm. • Seek shade where possible, consider wearing UPF sun-protective clothing, and wear a hat with a brim that shades the face and ears, especially if spending an extended amount of time outdoors. • After Memorial Day, look at the latest beach closures and advisories before going to the beach. For more information on beach closures, visit health.ri.gov/beaches or call 401-222-2751. • Be aware and prepare for hot temperatures.

Prevent tick bites

May is Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Month. As Rhode Islanders gather for outdoor gatherings and activities, it is important take three steps to prevent tick bites, which can lead to tick-borne diseases: Repel, Check, Remove.

Repel - keep ticks off you, your children, and pets by:

• Avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaves. If you are going to be in a wooded area, walk in the center of the trail to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaves at the edges of the trail. You can also spray your clothes with permethrin to keep ticks away. Make sure to not spray this on your skin. • Wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outside. • Tucking your pants into your socks so ticks do not crawl under your clothes. • Wearing light-colored clothing so you can see ticks more easily.

Check - check yourself, your children, and pets, for ticks by:

• Taking a shower as soon as you come inside if you have been in grassy or wooded areas. • Doing a full-body tick check using a mirror; parents should check their kids for ticks and pay special attention to the area in and around the ears, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in their hair. • Checking your pets for ticks as well because they can bring ticks into the home.

Remove - remove ticks from your body, as well as from children and pets, if you find them.

• Use a set of tweezers to remove the tick. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up. • If you don't have tweezers, use your fingers with a tissue or rubber gloves.

Besides Lyme Disease, which is the most common tickborne disease in Rhode Island, other tick-borne illnesses in Rhode Island are anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Powassan, a rare disease that causes brain inflammation and serious illness has also been detected in Rhode Island in recent years.

In addition, Alpha-gal Syndrome (AGS), which can be transmitted through the saliva of the Lone Star tick when it bites humans, is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic condition. AGS is also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy. AGS is not caused by an infection. AGS symptoms occur after people eat red meat or are exposed to other products containing alpha-gal.

For more information about tick bite prevention, see health.ri.gov/ticks.

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