July is my kind of month!

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream month? It's true: Ronald Reagan made this designation in 1984 and also named the third Sunday of the month "National Ice Cream Day."

Just think of the fun activities you could plan around eating ice cream on a hot July day. Of course, now I have to put on my "public health" hat and give you a few helpful hints to make sure your ice cream event is safe and healthy!

If you are going to serve other food along with the ice cream:

  • Wash your hands before handling any food. Use one platter to bring raw hamburgers or steaks to the grill, and another one when they are done cooking. Use different tongs or wash them between uses.
  • Have the food indoors or in a screened tent, and let guests fill their plates and then take a seat outside. This will minimize the flies and bugs that rest on food and bring contaminants with them.
  • Require a clean plate for each trip through the line, so that an individual's germs are not shared with the group.
  • Cook foods thoroughly to a safe temperature
  • Don't let food sit out between the first serving and two hours later, when everyone is hungry again after their brisk walk, swim, or game of horseshoes. Foods should never sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, and even less if the air temperatures are very hot.

If your event takes place in a wooded park or grassy field:

  • Stay in the center of the trail if you do take that brisk walk through tick habitat. Ticks love woody and brushy areas, and the peak of tick season goes through mid-July. They will hang onto long grasses and vegetation, and let loose to adhere onto bodies moving past them, whether they be deer, dogs or people.
  • Wear clothes that protect you from ticks, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and make them light-colored so ticks are easier to see. Tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots. (I actually do this; it looks silly but it works!)

Make it standard practice to do a "tick check" for all, checking the hairline, behind the ears and knees, in armpits, and waistlines.

If you find a tick, remove it right away. Use a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick close to the skin, pull the tick out slowly, gently and steadily; do not squeeze the tick, and use an antiseptic on the bite.

  • Don't forget about mosquitoes -- so apply a good bug spray.

If it's a really hot July day with bright sunshine with no natural air-conditioning coming from Lake Superior:

  • Wear lightweight clothing and light-colored clothing which will reflect the heat of the sun away.
  • Make sure to put on sunscreen with a SPF 30 or higher and reapply after swimming or sweating.
  • Slow down that brisk walk or game of horseshoes, particularly when the sun is most intense from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, but do not drink beverages with caffeine or alcohol, as they accelerate the effect of heat stroke.
  • Go for a swim, join your kids in a run through the sprinkler, or start a good-natured water fight.
  • And of course, eat ice cream!

Have a safe and healthy National Ice Cream Month.

Ann Busche is the director of Public Health and Human Services for St. Louis County. Contact her at 726-2096 or email: buschea@stlouiscountymn.gov