Winter may be cold and flu season, but summer offers an entirely new set of health challenges, including bacterial infections transmitted through contaminated food. Due to the summer heat and humidity, food-borne bacteria grow at a faster rate than normal, particularly when temperatures are between 90 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Because bacteria use moisture to multiply, food is an ideal vacation spot for bacteria. Outdoor picnickers and campers are especially susceptible to food poisoning, because of the lack of standard kitchen items – such as a thermostat, refrigerator, and sink – which usually prevent bacteria from multiplying to harmful numbers. Fortunately, most people have healthy immune systems to protect them from harmful bacteria and other organisms, but following these tips will ensure a healthier summer, according to Glenda Self, director of emergency services at CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital.
- Wash often. Always wash your hands before and after preparing foods, and never serve cooked meat on the same plate or tray that you had it on when raw without washing the plate first. Wash all fresh produce thoroughly, and bring disposable washcloths or sanitizing wipes or gel for cleaning hands and surfaces when dining outdoors.
- Separate. Avoid cross-contaminating utensils with food during the preparation, cooking, and serving of food. Wrap raw meats securely, so no juice contacts already-prepared food or clean utensils.
- Cook thoroughly. Cooking your food at a high enough temperature will kill harmful bacteria, so take a food thermometer to ensure the food is thoroughly cooked. Visit the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) website at www.nsf.org for standard cooking temperatures.
- Chill immediately. A primary cause of food poisoning is eating food at unsafe temperatures, so keep cold foods cold! Keep a cooler handy and place it in the shade or coolest part of your car to help keep the temperature consistent.
- When in doubt, throw it out! If you are unable to refrigerate leftover food within a couple of hours, it is best to throw it out and avoid the risk of food-borne illnesses altogether.
While these tips can greatly reduce your chance of catching a food-borne illness, you may still experience food poisoning symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, and fever. Most cases of food poisoning resolve on their own within one to two days, but if you or someone you know is experiencing severe, long-term effects of food poisoning, dial 9-1-1 right away or visit the emergency room at CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital. For more information about CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital’s services, please visit www.christusstcatherine.org.
About CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital
CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital is a faith-based, Catholic healthcare facility serving the people of Katy, Texas and surrounding communities since 2000. The hospital offers a broad spectrum of adult, pediatric, medical, surgical, and obstetrical care, as well as numerous ambulatory services, in a caring environment. In its 10-plus years, CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital has earned a number of accreditations and awards, including the Joint Commission National Quality Approval Accreditation as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center, Cancer Accreditation with Commendation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, the Pathway to Nursing Excellence Award, designation as a Cycle III Chest Pain Center with PCI, and recognition five years in a row as one of Houston’s Best Places to Work, among many others. CHRISTUS Health, the hospital’s parent company, is a not-for-profit, faith-based organization and one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, employing more than 25,000 people. Like all CHRISTUS Health institutions, CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital follows the values and mission set forth by the founding Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of Houston and San Antonio – to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ – and takes great pride in its service to patients and the entire community.