Memorial Day and How to Avoid Holiday Dangers

There are ways to safely grill over the Memorial Day holiday. Getty Images
There are ways to safely grill over the Memorial Day holiday.

This weekend, millions of Americans will hit the road to spend time with family and friends during Memorial Day and celebrate the unofficial kick-off of the summer season. Unfortunately, the season also means higher rates of injuries, according to experts.

To make sure you can enjoy your long weekend and stay safe, here are a few tips on how to stay safe and enjoy the summer season.

Grilling

Grilling and barbecues can be an important signal that summer has finally returned, but experts say you want to make sure you don’t kick off the season with food poisoning.

About 48 million Americans become sick with food poisoning every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reactions to spoiled food can result in nausea, vomiting, fever or diarrhea.

Marianne Graveley, a specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s meat and poultry hotline, told ABC News that using a meat thermometer can be important to ensure your hamburger is not dangerously rare.

“With ground beef, color is not a reliable indicator of doneness,” said Graveley, a specialist at the USDA’s meat and poultry hotline.

Meat that’s still pink may be well-done, Graveley said, and meat that’s brown may need more heat.

The ideal temperature range for bacteria to grow is between 40 and 140 degrees, which is why the USDA calls it the "danger zone." To avoid it, keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold, Graveley said.

Jennifer Walker, an injury prevention coordinator at the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said it’s also important that parents keep a child-free zone around the fiery grill.

“Have a 3-foot kid-free area,” said Walker, who added that cleaning the grill is essential.

“You want to make sure the grill is clean and not full of cobwebs and grease and fat,” which can ignite, said Walker.

Travel

This weekend, 33 million Americans are expected to hit the roads, according to AAA, but more traffic means more traffic accidents.

“We typically call summer ‘trauma season,’” Walker said. “Everything from sports to travel,” can lead to trauma cases.

The National Safety Council warns that, with more cars on the road, Memorial Day weekend can be deadly for travelers. The council estimates that 382 fatalities and 40,900 injuries might occur as a result of traffic accidents this weekend.

“Sadly, we know this long holiday weekend will end with too many preventable deaths and injuries," said Deborah Hersman, NSC president and CEO. "We issue these estimates to draw attention to risks on the roadways and encourage drivers to take extra precautions so needless tragedies can be prevented."

Insects

For most Americans, the average flying or crawling pests are not much more than an annoyance. But for some Americans, an insect sting can be dangerous.

The American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology estimates that 2 million Americans are allergic to insect stings. That includes people who are at risk of having a potentially fatal reaction to the venom of certain insects.

More than 500,000 Americans end up in the hospital every year because of insect stings and bites, and they cause at least 50 known deaths a year.

Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist and instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said it's imperative for those who are allergic to insect stings to carry around an EpiPen, which can be used to easily inject epinephrine to help ease a severe allergic reaction.

"It does you no good to have it in your medicine cabinet if you're out and about [and get stung]," said Pollack.

He added that those enjoying the outdoors should also be aware of insects that are more difficult to spot, such as ticks, which can carry Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

"If you're going to enjoy the outdoors, even just a backyard barbecue, you run some risk of acquiring a tick," said Pollack. "At the end of the day, do a tick check on yourself, children and even your pets."

Pools

The beginning of summer also means the start of pool or beach season for many in the U.S.

Jennifer Walker recommends parents keep an eye on children at all times and have a designated “water watcher” at a pool party.

“There have been incidences that everyone assumed that someone was watching the kids,” said Walker.

She added that it’s important to empty kiddie pools or buckets after a party because even a few inches of water can be dangerous for an infant.

ABC News’ Sydney Lupkin contributed to this report.