Outdoor barbecues and picnics can become a weekend routine during the summer. But do you know how long you can leave out your food before it goes bad?
About 1 in 6 Americans get sick from food poisoning each year. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And our clinics see an increase in the number of patients seeking care for food-related illnesses during the summer.
No one wants to be the person who gave the whole neighborhood food poisoning. So follow these 5 tips to make sure you’re not!
- Wash your hands. Be sure to scrub your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling food and, of course, after using the bathroom.
- Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods. Never put cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw food. Make sure to use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables, too.
- Use a cooler. Cars can get up to 120 degrees in just 10 to 15 minutes on hot days. Cold foods should be stored with ice or frozen gel packs until serving time. Hot foods should be stored in an insulated container.
- Use the 2 hour rule. Food should not sit out in the sun any longer than 2 hours. If it’s 90 degrees or hotter, that time limit drops to 1 hour.
- Cook foods thoroughly. Beef and pork should be grilled until all the pink is gone. Chicken should be cooked until there is no red in the joints. Fresh fish should cook until it flakes with a fork.
Symptoms of food poisoning, and how to treat them
Food poisoning usually causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps or fever. These symptoms can start fast, within just one hour. Or, they can hit up to 10 days later.
In most cases of mild to moderate food poisoning, symptoms last 1 to 2 days and do not require medical treatment. But if you are still experiencing symptoms after 3 days, go see a doctor immediately.
Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest, and that you don’t get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water (or other caffeine-free clear liquids), and drink it in frequent, small amounts. If you drink too much too fast, you might throw up.
When you start to eat again, avoid spicy, hot or high-fat foods. Instead, opt for mild foods like toast, yogurt, applesauce, bananas and rice. You’ll also still want to say no to alcohol or caffeine for another day or two. And hold off on dairy products like milk and ice cream until you’re back to feeling 100%.