Memorial Day is a time when friends and family gather together for barbecues, outdoor recreation and remembering lost veterans. However, the holiday presents certain risks that can put a damper on the festivities.

Barbecues are a common activity during Memorial Day festivities, and the holiday is often filled with children at play. It's important to keep children safely away from grills, as well as open, unattended pools. When children are in a yard containing a pool, a responsible adult should always be present. Many families designate a single "pool-watcher," so in case the adults scatter – thinking someone else is watching – one person can always be counted on.

Cooking on a grill can sometimes result in under-cooked foods, including chicken. The temperature can run much hotter than indoor ovens, with less even heating patterns. The outside parts of a piece of meat can burn before the inside is properly cooked, and taking it off the grill too soon can result in food poisoning. The use of a food thermometer is the surest way to reliably confirm that food has been properly heated to kill bacteria.

"It's important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures that people enjoy, so extra care needs to be taken to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home," said the Department of Agriculture's secretary Tom Vilsack.

Barbecue grills should also be cleaned of any grease that could catch fire, and they should only be operated at a safe distance away from homes and flammable objects.

Traveling on the highways presents another set of risks, such as car wrecks. The National Safety Council estimates that 40,900 injuries and 382 deaths will take place over the holiday weekend due to traffic accidents. Before traveling any significant distance, it is important to make sure the car is properly maintained, and seat belts should be worn at all times.

"Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer fun for families around the country, but unfortunately, the long holiday weekend will end with death and injury for far too many," said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

Pets should never be left in unattended cars unless windows are rolled down enough to prevent heat building up inside the vehicle. People can also overheat on hot days — so it's important to drink enough water all through the pre-summer celebrations.

Insects can pose considerable hazards at Memorial Day festivities, so if anyone in a family is allergic to bees or other pests, it is vital to have medicine available. Adults should also check themselves, children and pets for the presence of ticks following time spent celebrating outdoors. These tiny creatures can cause Lyme disease and other serious health problems.

By keeping these holiday safety tips in mind, your Memorial Day weekend can be a more joyous celebration, kicking off summer in a big way.

Photo: Leigh Harries | Flickr

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