To many in New Mexico, Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer and all of the festivities that entails. The upcoming long weekend is loaded with backyard barbecues, camping trips and picnics.

The New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center (NMPDIC) offers simple precautions that can ensure a fun-filled holiday weekend and a safe summer free of poisonings, venomous bites and painful stings. The following tips can help to prevent warm weather poisonings:

Food Poisoning

  • Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator or microwave oven.
  • Don’t thaw on the counter at room temperature. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
  • Don’t use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Boil used marinade, or reserve a portion of the unused marinade to use as a sauce.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure meats and poultry are properly cooked.
  • Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling food.
  • When taking cooked food off the grill, do not put it on the same plate that held raw meat.
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Don’t allow either to be out at room temperature longer than two hours. When in doubt, throw it out.

Following are some proactive tips to avoid encounters with New Mexico’s warm-weather friends and foes:

Bites and Stings

  • Always be aware of your surroundings.        
  • Snakes seek shelter from the sun under rocks and bushes, and in caves and animal burrows.
  • Avoid spider bites and scorpion stings by taking care when reaching near corners, and by shaking out all shoes, clothing, towels and bedding that have been sitting around.
  • Wear shoes after sundown around swimming pools, lakes and rivers.
  • Don’t reach into cracks in rocks or animal burrows, or under bushes.
  • Don’t tease, handle or kill a rattlesnake. If bitten, call 911 right away.
  • Call 1-800-222-1222 for first aid advice.

Following these simple tips will keep you and your family safe. Be prepared by programming your cell phone with the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222. A download for all NMPDIC info is available by texting “vcard toxic” to “313131.”