Newsroom > DHHS News Release

June 26, 2009

Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287 or

Sound bites from Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer, are available at

Practice Summer Safety This Fourth of July

Lincoln - Celebrate July 4th safely, says the state’s Chief Medical Officer.

Treat Fireworks Carefully

Dozens of firework-related injuries occur in Nebraska each year around the Fourth of July.

“Fireworks can be the best part of the celebration, but they can cause serious injuries if used improperly,” Dr. Joann Schaefer said.

Safety tips:

  • Stay away from illegal or homemade fireworks, which can often be deadly;
  • Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers;
  • Have a garden hose and bucket filled with water handy in case of a malfunction or fire;
  • Never shoot fireworks off in metal or glass containers;
  • Light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials;
  • Do not try to relight fireworks that malfunction.

Avoid Insect-related Illnesses

People outdoors may potentially come into contact with ticks and mosquitoes. Ticks can cause erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and Lyme disease, all potentially serious diseases. To avoid insect-related illnesses, take precautions.

“A good way to avoid both ticks and mosquitoes is to wear insect repellent,” Dr. Schaefer said. FDA-approved insect repellents are: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535.

“Also, it’s a good idea to wear solid shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when appropriate. To avoid ticks, tuck your pants into your socks,” she said. “Remember, dusk and dawn are the favorite times for mosquitoes.”

Watch Out for Sunburn

Sunburn is caused by over-exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. While the symptoms are usually temporary (such as red skin that is painful to the touch), the skin damage is often permanent and can have serious consequences. Unprotected sun exposure can cause first and second degree burns and can lead to skin cancer.

“Infants and children are especially sensitive to the burning effects of the sun,” Dr. Schaefer said.


  • Avoid sun exposure during hours of peak sun ray intensity.
  • Apply generous amounts of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
    • Pay special attention to your face, nose, ears, and shoulders.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow penetration. Re-apply after swimming and every 2 hours while you are outdoors.
  • Wear sun hats.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Use a lip balm with sunscreen.

Summer Food Safety

For many people, the Fourth of July means that it’s time to roll out the grill, get the picnic baskets ready and plan the barbecues. It’s also time to observe some basic rules for food safety in order to avoid foodborne illnesses, like those caused by salmonella, E.coli O157:H7, and norovirus.

To prevent food-borne illnesses:

  • Wash up. Using soap and water will help keep hands clean and keep food safe.
  • Use your refrigerator or a cool water bath to thaw meat. Avoid the counter because
    temperatures are too high.
  • Make it hot and keep it hot. Hamburger should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F and chicken to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F. Once you cook it, try to keep it above 140 degrees F.
  • If it’s cold, keep it that way. Cold foods need to stay below 40 degrees F and out of direct sunlight.
  • Don’t reuse utensils or dishes. Use a mixture of ¾ cup of bleach and one gallon of water to clean surfaces like cutting boards or countertops before using them again.
  • Don’t use the same platter for raw and cooked meats. Also, transport raw meat separately from other foods and double-wrap it to keep it from dripping.
  • When you’re done eating, put away foods as soon as possible after they’re served. Leaving perishable foods unrefrigerated encourages the bacteria to grow.

Avoid Heat-related Illness

High temperatures and high humidity can be a deadly combination. Temperatures of 90-plus degrees and humidity levels of 40 percent or more put people in the danger zone for heat-related illness, which happens when the body's temperature control system is overloaded.

“Infants and the elderly are the most at risk from high temperatures,” Dr. Schaefer said. “Check on elderly neighbors and friends to see if they are keeping cool.”
Other people who are at increased risk are the obese, chronically ill (including heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma), and people who take certain medicines, such as antidepressants and tranquilizers, that interfere with the body's temperature regulation.

Tips to stay cool and avoid heat-related illness:

  • Drink plenty of water and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink;
  • Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine;
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing;
  • If outdoors, slow your pace and take frequent rest breaks to cool off; and
  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.