Don’t let cookouts turn your stomach


Cookouts are a favorite pastime for many families during the summer months. However preparing food on the grill or setting out some savory snacks can quickly turn your child’s stomach if you don’t take some precautions.

“Safety starts with hand washing,” says Becky Gonter-Dray, RD, CSP, LD, pediatric dietitian at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “Fifteen seconds with soap and water does the trick.” A trip to the sink isn’t just important for the cook and the kids, it’s also a must for the raw produce included in your outdoor feast.

Being vigilant about food temperatures can go a long way toward protecting your family from food poisoning. Keep the chill in your summer fun by keeping cold food at an internal temperature of 41°F or lower. Drinks and food should be kept in separate coolers, since the beverage one will be opened more frequently. When you are loading up those coolers, fill them to the brim. That helps maintain a cold temperature longer than partially filled containers.

Just because it’s hot outside, don’t back off the heat on the grill. “Hamburgers and red meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F, poultry to 165°F and fish to 145°F or until opaque,” says Gonter-Dray. “Also avoid putting cooked meat back on the same plate you used for the raw food and be sure to get any leftovers in the refrigerator within four hours.”

Not following these steps can lead to the growth of bacteria that can make you sick. Symptoms of food poisoning include:

• Nausea

• Abdominal pain and cramps

• Vomiting

• Diarrhea

• Fever

• Headaches and weakness.

Treating food poisoning

Usually food poisoning runs its course and kids get better on their own. If your child develops food poisoning, make sure they rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid solid food and dairy products until any diarrhea stops. Do not give them over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications because those can make the symptoms of food poisoning last longer.

When to call the doctor

The most common and serious problem that occurs with food poisoning is dehydration. If your child has any signs of dehydration — extreme thirst, dry mouth or skin, irritability, little or no urination — it’s time to seek medical attention. You should also call your doctor if your child has vomiting lasting for more than 12 hours, bloody diarrhea, or severe abdominal pain.

But by following these few simple steps, you can make sure your summer barbeques are the toast of the town and keep your kids coming back for seconds.

This look at a children’s health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital. Email:

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