Henderson County Public Health: Seven safety tips for fairs and festivals – BlueRidgeNow.com

September is here, which means it’s time for the North Carolina Apple Festival and North Carolina Mountain State Fair. 
The North Carolina Apple Festival is Sept. 2-5 in downtown Hendersonville. Shortly after comes the North Carolina Mountain State Fair from Sept. 9-18 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. 
Fairs and festivals are a great chance to get together, eat some great food and enjoy all the competitions. But these events also involve lots of walking, large crowds and dealing with the elements during the waning days of summer. It’s important to keep health and safety in mind when heading out to these events. 
With that said, here are a few safety tips:
► Stay hydrated: It may be obvious but staying hydrated can take a backseat when you’re busy having fun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to drink plenty of fluids to avoid heat-related illnesses and to not wait until you’re thirsty to drink. 
Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks as these can cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps. If you have restrictions on fluid consumption, ask your healthcare provider how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
► Protect from the sun, heat: Protection from ultraviolet (UV) light is important anytime you spend time outside, even if it’s a cloudy and cool day. Those rays also reflect off surfaces like cement. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher, according to the CDC, prior to attending an outdoor event and reapply as needed. Sunscreen works best when combined with other options. Wear a hat, sunglasses and weather-appropriate clothing for more protection. Take breaks in the shade or indoors when needed. 
► Comfort over style: Comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothing can make all the difference during a long day at a fair or festival. To protect from the sun, the CDC says to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts, when possible. If this isn’t practical, try to wear a T-shirt. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Pack a poncho or rain jacket if the forecast calls for rain. Good walking shoes are generally flat, but flexible, so your foot rolls with each step, according to the CDC. They should fit well, but leave enough room for your feet to spread out while walking. Wear socks that are comfortable. Try socks made of cotton or other sweat-wicking materials — they will keep your feet drier and help prevent blisters.
► Wash hands often: Fairs and festivals attract hundreds of people and provide many chances for surfaces, animals and food to be touched and germs to spread. With that in mind, wash hands frequently, especially in situations like after petting animals and prior to eating or drinking. Hands should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t readily available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean your hands. 
Get the lay of the land: Look at event information beforehand and be familiar with the locations of medical, security and lost/found stations. Whether it’s a medical emergency or a missing item or child, knowing where to find help will reduce anxiety during an already stressful situation. It may also be helpful to plan a meeting spot with your group in advance in case someone gets separated.  
► Be mindful of food safety: Food safety is just as important at a fair or festival as it is at a restaurant or at home. Before buying food, consider if the vendor is following the four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. Is their workstation clean? Are employees using gloves or tongs when handling food? Are raw meats separate from other foods? Is the food cooked to the right temperature? Do they have proper refrigeration for raw ingredients? These are some questions to consider to avoid foodborne illnesses. 
Consider COVID-19 precautions: Henderson County is currently listed as “medium” in the CDC’s COVID-19 community risk level map. This means if you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions. Please get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 before deciding to attend a mass gathering. 
Andrew Mundhenk is the Communications Manager for the Henderson County Department of Public Health.

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