One of the great things about living in Bryan-College Station is living so close to Texas A&M University.  The university provides enormous benefits to the community, not the least of which are many great entertainment events.  As we approach fall, it’s once again time for Aggie Football (whoop!) and all the activities that accompany it – including tailgating or other outdoor gatherings around game time.  Here are some tips to keep you and all your fellow sports fans healthy and safe:

1. Hygiene

While it’s more difficult to maintain ideal hygiene when enjoying a meal outdoors such as at a tailgate party, it is still possible and important.  Hand-washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs or contracting a food-borne illness, but this isn’t always possible when outdoors.  Fortunately, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers is almost as effective.  Place some sanitizer at the serving table or near where people will eat to encourage its use.  Other measures that can help are to provide utensils for serving food so there is less contamination of food by people’s hands, and keep food covered so flies don’t land on it.

Beforehand clean all surfaces, dishes and serving utensils that might contact food with disinfectants.  

2. Food Safety

Outside of good hygiene, preventing food-borne illness is mostly about maintaining proper food temperatures.  Cooking outdoors, transporting food items to and from the location, and having food sitting out for long periods all increase the risk food will spend an unsafe amount of time at unsafe temperatures.  Therefore, planning is critical.  

Begin by choosing a menu without high risk items such as mayonnaise or mayonnaise containing salads (cole slaw, potato salad, etc.), as these are prone to become unsafe if not constantly refrigerated.  Undercooked meat, especially chicken and ground beef, are also high risk.  So consider other types of meat… or go vegetarian!

Whatever you choose, think carefully about refrigeration, proper heating, cooking times and food temperatures before serving your guests.  Nobody wants to be known for having the tailgate that got everyone sick!  So, keep food in coolers or at the proper high temperature as much as possible.

3. Beware The Entertainment

Games and entertainment are a must for most tailgate parties!  However, most attendees are not as accurate at throwing footballs, nor as coordinated at running to catch the ball, as they think they are.  This is a set up for injury, particularly if the participants have been consuming alcohol!  Leave the miraculous plays for the athletes in the stadium, and enjoy sports and other games at your party carefully.  

Additionally, always be conscientious of other tailgaters nearby.  It hurts to get hit with an errantly thrown football or crashed into by someone chasing a ball, and people can be seriously injured.

4. Avoid Alcohol

While suggesting avoiding alcohol at a tailgate party might seem laughable, it is a very good recommendation.  About 95,000 Americans die each year from alcohol use and the risk is higher around sporting events!  Estimates are that 1 in 10 attendees at college football games are intoxicated and arrests for alcohol related issues are 5 times higher on game days.  It is past time we reconsider our nonchalant attitude about alcohol consumption in general, but especially the type of binge drinking that tends to accompany college sporting events.  

No amount of alcohol consumption has been proven to be safe for our health, and excess alcohol consumption is certainly unsafe.  Furthermore, intoxicated people are more likely to get injured, or injure others, get violent, or get arrested.  Finally, intoxicated fans tend to be more obnoxious and create a worse environment for fans, especially the visiting fans.  Texas A&M prides itself on our gameday environment, let’s not let alcohol tarnish that reputation while causing injuries, health problems and legal problems.  

5. Water and Shade Are a Must

Protect yourself and guests from the sun and heat,  especially early in the season. This is particularly important for our elderly guests who are more prone to heat related illness.  A shade structure and fans to circulate air are helpful, as is being close to an air conditioned space in which to take breaks and cool down.  But even when shade is available it’s wise to encourage the use of sunscreen, so provide some along with the hand sanitizer discussed above. Sunglasses can also help you shield your eyes from UV radiation and reduce your chances of getting cataracts. Provide plenty of water so that people can stay hydrated. This is particularly important if people will be drinking alcohol as it is not as hydrating as other beverages. 

6. Avoid Idling and Gasoline Generators

The combination of barbecues, gasoline generators, and idling vehicles creates hazardous air conditions, particularly for those with lung or heart disease.  As an example, in large cities an increase in cardiovascular and respiratory events can be measured within just a couple of hours of each time the air quality worsens.  Therefore, at-risk persons could easily be exposed to enough air pollutants during a tailgate party to experience subsequent asthma/COPD exacerbations, pneumonia, and even heart attack and stroke!  

Consider swapping out the gasoline/propane generator for a portable power station, which are essentially just large battery packs.  Not only are there many available that can power all your tailgate needs, but they tend to be smaller and are always quieter and don’t produce any exhaust.  Never leave your vehicle idling near a crowd, and consider propane for grilling rather than charcoal.  Better yet, cook your meat at home and warm it without flame once you arrive!

In keeping with the theme of being good guests and neighbors, even if you and your friends at your party aren’t bothered by smokey barbecues or generator exhaust, consider that other fans around you have to breathe, too, and may not enjoy breathing the exhaust or smoke coming from your party. 

Trust CapRock Health for All of Your Medical Needs

These are a few of the most important tips you need to keep in mind if you are getting ready for the upcoming tailgate. We are CapRock Health, and we are here to help you with all of your medical needs. If someone has gotten sick or hurt at your tailgate, it would be our pleasure to care for you. We have the latest equipment and the best ER specialists in town! So, contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and your family!