As we get ready to celebrate summer with cookouts, days at the beach, fire pits and more, the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School is preparing for an uptick in calls related to summer poisoning hazards, which can range from food poisoning to pool chemicals to heat-related illnesses.

Food safety is a big issue, according to Bruce Ruck, managing director at the NJ Poison Control Center. When preparing food, avoid cross-contamination by marinating food in the refrigerator and not on the counter. Put the marinated food on a dish on the bottom shelf of the fridge so the juices won't drip onto other foods below.

Always wash hands with soap and water before and after handling raw food. Be sure to wash countertops after raw beef, chicken and other meats touch the surfaces.

When using powdered chlorine to treat a backyard swimming pool, avoid shaking the container to minimize dust. Open containers in well-ventilated areas. Never mix chlorine with ammonia or other cleaning solutions as this can produce toxic gases that can have life-threatening effects.

At night, it may be customary to light backyard torches with oil. Ruck said many of these refill oil bottles look like apple juice. He said over the years, the NJ Poison Control Center has received phone calls about children mistakenly drinking from these oil containers because they resemble juice containers. He also said to avoid using small paper cups to pour the oil in first and then transfer them to the torches. Many times these cups are left lying around with the liquid still in them and that could be dangerous to children, pets and even adults.

Store charcoal lighter fluid in locked cabinets.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is also a serious threat during the summer. Ruck said when there are storms and the power goes out, many people pull out their gas generators. He said these generators should never be in garages and they they should be placed at least 20 feet away from the home.

When boating, Ruck said do not idle and always swim and play away from swim decks or water platforms where engines usually vent.

Never pick or eat plants or mushrooms growing in the wild, even ones growing in your backyard. He said many people suffer from health effect such as liver disease, nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, there is even a death each year from mushroom poisoning.

Always use caution while being in the sun and on certain medications. Ruck said this can greatly increase the risk of heat-related illnesses and severe sunburns. Apply and reapply broad-spectrum sunscreen that is water-resistance, SPF 30 or higher.

Ruck also warned about drinking alcohol while taking medicine. Many ingredients used in medicines can interact dangerously with booze.

If someone is awake and conscious but poisoning is suspected, Ruck said to call the NJ Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Experts are on hand 24/7 365 days a week to answer any questions.

However, if someone is unconscious and not breathing, always call 9-1-1 first.

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