Health Watch -- Warm Weather Poisons

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Before you plan your Memorial Day cookout, take a few minutes to plan for safety.

Cooking burgers on a grill, roasting hot dogs on a camp fire and having outdoor picnics with the family are popular activities for summer holiday activities, but doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say these activities can pose dangers if you're not careful. As you plan your family's Memorial Day activities, Dr. Rebeca Gracia, a UT Southwestern toxicologist, offers these safety tips:

Don't eat foods you pick in the wild. Even if they look like food you find in the store, they could be poisonous. For example, wild hemlock can look like carrots or parsnips, and wild mushrooms may be poisonous even if they look like store-bought mushrooms. Make sure children know you're bringing your own food for the picnic and they shouldn't eat anything they find at the park or in the yard.

Be careful about using brush found around a campsite to start your fire. If you accidentally get a twig of poison ivy in the fire, the smoke can blister your lungs if you inhale it.

Keep alcohol and lighter fluid away from children. Alcohol can lead to seizures, coma or even death in children. Lighter fluid can cause pneumonia if ingested by a child.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold in order to prevent food poisoning. Keep raw meats separate from cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw.

Finally, make sure you have the number for the local poison center with you so you can get help if needed.


May 2004