Safety Should Never Take a Holiday Break

NEWARK, N.J. – Family gatherings are a great way to spend summer’s biggest holiday weekend. With all the excitement and fun, it is possible to overlook potential hazards during Independence Day celebrations.

During the summer holiday weekend, calls to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) spike, with callers expressing concern about torch oil ingestion, mosquito spraying, alcohol consumption, food poisoning, poisonous plants, glow products and handling of fireworks and their potentially toxic ingredients.

“Mishaps can occur at any time. Being prepared and informed in advance is important,” says Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D., NJPIES director of drug information and professional education.

Follow these safety tips to help ensure a healthy holiday weekend:

  • Store charcoal and lighter fluid containers and jugs containing lamp oil in locked cabinets, away from food and drinks.
  • Lamp oil refill bottles closely resemble juice containers, and it may be difficult to pour the liquid directly from the bottle into the torch. Plastic or paper cups used to transfer this liquid into the torch should not be left sitting out. Someone may mistake oil in a cup for lemonade or apple juice, a dangerous invitation to disaster! When accidentally ingested, such oils can enter the lungs, resulting in pneumonia and death.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot! Meats and salads made with mayonnaise or egg should not sit out for more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly.
  • Do not cross-contaminate! Cooked foods should not be placed on any unwashed plates/containers that previously held raw meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
  • Remove all prescription and over-the-counter medicines from accessible medicine cabinets and other storage areas (bedside stands, kitchen cabinets, etc.). When guests visit, lock away all medications (prescription, non-prescription, herbal, vitamins and dietary supplements) and keep out of reach of children and pets.
  • Be careful in the sun. Some medications can greatly increase the chance for severe sunburn even when using sunscreen.
  • Limit time spent in the sun, especially when the sun is the strongest (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Wear clothing to cover exposed skin (long-sleeve shirts, pants, hats, and sunglasses) and regularly apply sunscreen with a broad spectrum SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Avoid areas where poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak may grow.
  • Limit outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. Apply 10% to 35% DEET containing insect repellent to clothes and exposed skin when taking part in outdoor activities.
  • Empty all glasses and/or cans that contain alcohol as promptly as possible to prevent alcohol poisoning.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines. Check with your pharmacist or the Poison Control Center to find out if an interaction may occur.
  • Find out if guests have food allergies. Avoiding problematic foods can prevent an unnecessary trip to the emergency room.
  • Use caution when opening pool chemical containers, such as chlorine.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water and wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting, open-woven clothes during a heat wave.
  • Although the chemicals used in glow products are considered non-toxic, be mindful that, if exposed, irritation to skin, eye and stomach can occur.


As New Jersey’s only poison control center, the New Jersey Poison Information & Education System provides information on poison prevention and treatments. Chartered in 1983, NJPIES provides free consultation through telephone hot line services and the Web. Medical professionals such as physicians, registered nurses and pharmacists offer confidential advice regarding poison emergencies and provide information on poison prevention, drugs, food poisoning, animal bites and more. These specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

NJPIES coordinates state poison education and research, and is designated as the regional poison center by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the American Association of Poison Control Centers. It tracks incidences of adverse reactions to food, drugs and vaccines in order to monitor potential public health issues and provide data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A division of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health of the New Jersey Medical School of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, its state-of-the-art center is located on the school’s Newark campus.

New Jersey residents seeking immediate information about treating poison emergencies should call the bilingual toll-free hot line, 1-800-222-1222, any time. The hearing impaired may call (973) 926-8008. For more information, visit or call (973) 972-9280.

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health.

Name: Alicia Gambino or Kaylyn Kendall Dines Phone: (800) 222-1222 or (973) 972-1216 Email: [email protected]