Now, National Grilling Month might seem a bit of a off-the-wall topic for us to cover here on the My Identity Doc blog—after all, we’re a health and safety blog, not a food blog! However, it doesn’t take long to recall images and internal soundbites of a parent—maybe you, maybe your own!—telling a child to get away from the barbecue during a summer cook out (or, in my world, my mom uses the barbecue all winter long, even in -40* Winnipeg winters!).
Here are some health and safety tips for National Grilling Month to keep your BBQ season fun—without any accidents or emergencies!
Of course, the number one group that comes to mind in keeping your summer grilling festivities safe? Kids, of course! Here are some tips for keeping kiddos safe:
- Keep young kids away from open flames, be it a barbecue or a open fire-pit. Not only can these be burn hazards, but if not secured, barbecues—in use or not—can topple and seriously injure children.
- Placing a barricade between kids—or pets, as below!—and the barbecue may help to keep the most inquisitive sorts at a safe distance. A small physical barrier, such as a foot-high garden-type fence surrounding the barbecue or fire pit, may do the trick.
- Hot dogs are among the top foods children choke on each year . Their shape can quickly block a child’s airway. Ensure children sit (relatively calmly!) while eating to prevent choking, and cut hot dogs length-wise before placing in the bun so that smaller pieces are consumed. Other choking culprits that may show up at your barbecue? Grapes, baby carrots, and popcorn.  Cutting all food into small pieces is recommended for young children who may not chew food as well as we’d hope!
- Keep in mind, of course, anybody can choke—children are just at the greatest risk! Older adults, people with certain disabilities may also have greater risk of choking. Being prepared and knowing first aid for choking is extremely beneficial, no matter if you’re in your own back yard, at a bakery, or a downtown bistro!
- As with kids, excited pets like dogs are at risk of not keeping a safe distance from fires and barbecues. They may need to be kept on a leash or tie down to ensure their safety. As with children, making a physical barrier for pets may be a potential solution.
- Dogs specifically are known for eating anything and everything. Ensure dropped food is picked up as quickly as possible. Encourage guests—and your own family—not to feed dogs from the table. If your family just can’t resist, keep dog-friendly treats on hand so they can feed your pup the rightthings!
- Remember—while dogs are known for gulping down everything and everything in sight, animals can choke, too! This is why it’s important to keep an eye on what your pets are trying to consume.
- If you have severe food allergies, ensure you carry epinephrine with you at all times. Wear a medical ID necklace or bracelet for food allergies.
- Hosting a barbecue this summer? Keep any food allergies your guests may have in mind—and don’t be afraid to ask with your invitation!
- Ensure children’s parents know what they are eating or being offered to eat. Young children especially may not realize which foods contain allergens—and may not always remember to ask if foods are safe!
- Labeling foods at big gatherings can help people know what is safe. You may wish to keep packaging for store-bought foods so guests with allergies can check to ensure choices are safe—this includes buns, hotdogs and hamburgers, cake mixes… just about anything you’re serving!
- If you’re the host, don’t be offended if a guest with food allergies chooses not to eat what you’re offering—even if you’ve made sure it’s safe for them to eat. For many people with severe allergies, they are used to bringing food along with them, and may be worried about cross-contamination or have other concerns. Knowing what they are eating is how they stay safe—be willing to learn!
- Smoke from fires and barbecues may be an issue for you. Ask the host how they plan to cook food, and how open the space is.
- Keep your rescue inhaler with you in case you need it.
- If smoke is a signifiant asthma trigger for you, asking what time dinner will be served and choosing to arrive late to avoid smoke, or taking a break indoors while food is cooking, may be an option until smoke clears.
- Those with asthma, COPD or cystic fibrosis should always wear a medical ID bracelet for unexpected severe symptoms.
- Usually, we presume foods cooked on the barbecue to be safe. While hot-dogs are processed and should be safe if undercooked, ensuring food is cooked thoroughly is important to avoid food borne illness.
- Using a meat thermometer can be a sure-fire way to ensure meats are cooked thoroughly.
- Meat isn’t the only option for grilling: but if you’re grilling pineapple, or other vegetables and fruits, ensure you cut them on a separate cutting board from the meat—as should be practice in your kitchen always!
- As above, cut hot-dogs lengthwise for children to prevent choking.
- When cooking over an open fire, ensure pointed sticks used to cook food is clean, and that people remain mindful of where they are walking to avoid tripping and injury associated with the sticks—or fire.
Have a safe and fun barbecue!
These tips are meant to ensure you’re a prepared host, or guest—we don’t mean to scare you! However, by following a few simple tips and being aware of your guests needs, you can ensure your summer barbecue remains safe and fun for all!
Happy National Grilling Month!