CHICAGO - As people across the state prepare to celebrate the 2024 Fourth of July holiday, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reminding Illinoisans to heed proven safety advice and avoid ruining the festivities. Follow food handling safety tips to protect friends and family from foodborne illnesses. Avoid sunburn and heat stroke by using sunscreen and proper summer attire. Protect yourself from disease carrying pests like mosquitos and ticks. And leave the fireworks to professionals.

Get The Latest News!

Don't miss our top stories and need-to-know news everyday in your inbox.

“Our nation’s Independence Day is always one of my favorite days of the year,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “As we celebrate America’s birthday with great food and fireworks, I remind my fellow Illinoisians that a little advance planning can ensure a healthy and safe Fourth of July. Avoid foodborne illnesses at cookouts and picnics by keeping cold food cold and cooking hot foods to the proper temperature. Dodge insect-borne illnesses and ‘fight the bite’ by wearing insect repellant. Evade sunburn and heat-related illnesses by applying sunscreen, staying hydrated, and wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing. And keep the handling of fireworks to the professionals.”

Director Vohra also noted that fireworks should only be handled by those with professional training and that fireworks displays can deteriorate air quality and adversely affect the health of people with heart or lung disease. Vulnerable individuals should take protective steps, such as wearing a high-quality mask if they are attending fireworks displays, or view them from a distance.

Following are a series of health tips from IDPH, on food safety; water safety; preventing sun burn and heat stroke; tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses; and fireworks safety:

Food Safety

It can be difficult to keep food cold during warm weather, especially while picnicking or traveling. Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill. When transporting f, keep foods 40°F or below in an insulated cooler. One tip to help keep your cooler below 40ºF is to pack beverages in one cooler and food in another. The cooler with the beverages will likely be opened more frequently, causing the temperature inside the cooler to fluctuate. You can also keep coolers in the shade and out of the direct sun.

To guard against cross-contamination, food should be kept separate. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be stored and prepared separately from fruits, vegetables, cheeses, salads, and even cooked foods.

Before grilling, thaw food safely in the refrigerator, in cold running water, or in the microwave. Always marinate food in the refrigerator, no matter what kind of marinade you’re using. Never thaw or marinate meat, poultry, or seafood on the counter. Harmful germs can multiple quickly at room temperature.

Wash your hands with soap and water before eating as well as before, during, and after preparing foods. Wash work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.

Before you start grilling, use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface. If you use a wire bristle brush, inspect the grill’s surface before cooking. Wire bristles from the grill cleaning brush may dislodge and stick into food on the grill.

When grilling, make sure food is cooked to a safe temperature by using a food thermometer. Follow these temperature guidelines to ensure grilled food is safe for consumption:

  • 145°F – Whole cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and pork, including fresh ham (allow meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
  • 145°F – Fish with fins
  • 160°F – Ground meats, such as beef and pork
  • 165°F – All poultry, including ground chicken and turkey, leftovers, and casseroles

Throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat juices, which can spread germs to cooked foods. Use clean utensils and a clean plate when you take cooked food off the grill.

Article continues after sponsor message

After the meal, divide leftovers into small portions and place in clean, shallow containers. Make sure all leftovers are kept in the freezer or fridge or on ice within two hours after cooking, or one hour if it is above 90°F outside.

And know the symptoms of most types of food poisoning, which include diarrhea, severe cramps, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms can begin from 30 minutes to three or more days after eating contaminated food. If symptoms are severe or last longer than two days, contact a doctor or health care provider.

More food safety tips and information about foodborne illnesses and symptoms can be found on the CDC Food Safety website.

Water and Swimming Safety

Whether at the beach, on the lake or in a swimming pool, keep the following safety precautions at top of mind:

  • Supervise young children around water
  • Always use life jackets and secure personal flotation devices
  • Avoid alcohol while supervising children and before or during swimming, boating, or waterskiing
  • Shower before entering a swimming pool and do not swim when ill with diarrhea
  • Be aware of the local weather conditions and forecast, especially watch for thunderstorms with lightning
  • Pay attention to lifeguards and posted instructions

Sun and Heat

When the temperature is elevated, guard against sunburn and heat illness:

  • Never leave anyone, including pets, alone in a closed, parked vehicle
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outside
  • Increase fluid intake - drink more liquid than thirst indicates; avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loosing-fitting clothing
  • Be aware of heat exhaustion symptoms: heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, clammy skin, pale or flushed complexion, and fast and shallow breathing
    • If present, be sure to move the person to a cooler place; remove or loosen tight clothing; apply cool, wet cloths; and give cool water to slowly drink
  • Be aware of heat stroke symptoms - hot, dry skin, hallucinations, chills, throbbing headache, high body temperature, confusion/dizziness and slurred speech
    • If present, be sure to call 911; quickly cool the person in a cool bath or wrap wet sheets around them; if the victim refuses water, is vomiting or shows a decreased level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink

Ticks and Mosquitoes

Whether camping, hiking or in the backyard, guard against insect-borne illnesses. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus and ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and other serious infections.

  • WEAR INSECT REPELLENT. Apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions
  • Avoid being outside during prime mosquito-biting hours, dusk to dawn
  • Avoid tick-infested areas, such as the woods and high grasses
  • Check people and pets for ticks every 2 to 3 hours
  • Remove ticks attached to the body promptly to help prevent diseases. Use tweezers to remove the tick and call a health care provider if a rash, fever or body aches develop during the 1 to 3 weeks following a bite.
  • Check with a veterinarian about preventing tickborne diseases in pets as they can carry ticks into the home

Fireworks Safety

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal encourages everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals. Every year across the state fireworks cause accidental fires, burn injuries, loss of limbs, and even in some cases deaths.

For more summer safety tips, checkout: Summer? No Sweat. A Summer Survival Guide.

More like this:

May 3, 2024 - As Lyme Disease Awareness Month Kicks Off, Illinoisans Urged to "Fight the Bite" that Sickens 500,000 Each Year

May 16, 2024 - Tis the (Tick) Season

Jun 13, 2024 - Prep Your Way To Grill Season Food Safety

May 6, 2024 - Asian Longhorned Tick Confirmed In Illinois

Jun 25, 2024 - For Sale: Sprawling Home with Mississippi River Views