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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

4 ways to prevent getting sick or hurt

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, which brings to mind burgers on the grill, drives with the windows down and playing outside in the sun.

However, there’s the dark and dangerous side to holiday weekends and the summer in general. If you don’t keep some simple safety tips in mind (and use some common sense), you could end up feeling sick or, in some cases, find yourself in the ER.

“Summertime can be a lot of fun because the weather is nice and kids are out of school. But it also brings more people to the emergency room for things that could typically be avoided if you’re a little more careful,” said Geisinger emergency medicine physician James McRipley, M.D.

Here are some tips to help you have a safe, fun holiday weekend.

Don’t eat food that’s been sitting out all day
That perfectly grilled hot dog or the delicious broccoli salad that’s been sitting on a picnic table all day might still look good, but you really shouldn’t eat it. Bacteria that can cause foodborne illness thrives and multiplies when food reaches between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

“What may follow is food poisoning that might not send you to the ER, but it may cause vomiting and diarrhea for 24 to 48 hours,” said Dr. McRipley.

To prevent food from spoiling, don’t leave it out for more than two hours at a time. When everyone’s finished chowing down, store food in a cooler with ice or a refrigerator so it chills to below 40 degrees.

Don’t singe off your eyebrows—or worse—while grilling
Grills and smokers might create perfectly cooked chicken breasts, burgers or barbecue, but they can be dangerous to operate, too.

Whether you’re new to the art of grilling or you consider yourself a regular Bobby Flay, you should keep your grill away from deck railings and the siding of your house. If your culinary feats get out of control, fire could spread quickly.

You should also keep kids and pets away from the grill, and never leave it unattended. After you’re done eating, clean buildup from grill surfaces and any trays below, which could start a grease fire.

Avoid that sunkissed look
The sun can begin damaging your skin in just 15 minutes if you don’t protect it. And while you might have your heart set on a healthy glow, you’re also increasing your chances of wrinkled and sagging skin, freckles, discoloring and pre-cancerous and cancerous cells.

“There’s nothing ‘healthy’ about a tan, despite what you may think,” said Dr. McRipley. “Too much time in the sun can cause sunburn and, in severe cases, sun poisoning with blisters, swelling, headaches, a fever and chills, nausea and dehydration.”

To prevent sunburn, find shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you are outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your face; long-sleeved shirts and pants can also protect your skin from the sun. You should also apply sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher at least 15 minutes before going outside. Reapply it every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Don’t get distracted while driving  
Memorial Day weekend is the start of the deadliest travel season in the country. Whether you’re headed to a friend’s house for the day, “down the shore” for the weekend or you’re driving to a vacation spot, take some precautions before you get behind the wheel.

If you’re starting a road trip after a long week of work, make sure you’re well rested before hitting the road.

While driving, avoid distractions from passengers and your trusted smartphone.

Finally, while you might enjoy a cold beer or two, attempting to drive after even a few drinks can be deadly. Drunk driving accounts for about 30 percent of all driving-related fatalities.

“Even one or two beers can impair your judgment and make it more difficult to see or focus on driving,” said Dr. McRipley.

Dr. James McRipley sees patients at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre’s adult urgent care. More information about urgent care locations can be found on



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