The nearly 100 million people who watch the Super Bowl each year aren’t at risk for concussions and other gridiron injuries, but all the stress, eating and drinking can pose a health risk to football fans. 

Experts at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School -- Executive and Medical Director Diane Calello and Managing Director Bruce Ruck of the New Jersey Poison Control Center and Julius M. Gardin, professor of medicine and director (interim) at the Division of Cardiology -- offer health tips ahead of Sunday’s game.

Heart and Brain Safety

Studies suggest that stressful events such as an exciting football game can strain a person’s heart and brain. Most notably, people with underlying conditions like narrowed arteries to the heart or brain, irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes are at a higher risk. They should remember to take their medications before the game, avoid watching the game alone and keep room temperatures comfortable. 

People also tend to overeat during the game, which can increase health risks if they have an underlying heart condition. Those on blood thinners and other heart medications should drink alcohol moderately. 

Experts also remind people to be alert for symptoms of a heart attack, including general chest discomfort and a squeezing or burning pressure in the chest, which may also be felt in the arms and jaw. Other symptoms may include nausea, sudden heartburn, stomach pain, sudden sweats, shortness of breath and dizziness or light headedness. 

Also, signs of a stroke can include sudden numbness in one part of the body or loss of function in one part of the body such as the face, leg or arm; other acute symptoms such as slurred speech vision problems, trouble walking, dizziness, lack of balance or coordination and intense headache may be experienced.

Medication Safety

It’s the flu season, so many people may be taking over-the-counter or prescribed medication to relieve cold or cough symptoms, which means they shouldn’t drink alcohol. 

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications, including oral antihistamines for allergies, make driving unsafe due to side effects like sleepiness, loss of focus/attention, blurred vision and decreased coordination. Reaction time could be slowed down, and drugged driving – even with legal medications – can have the same effects as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Additionally, if you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, don’t leave medicines in places that are easily accessible to children and pets, such as a nightstand or bathroom cabinet.

Food Safety

Do not cook if you have a respiratory illness or infection as this puts your guests at risk. 

Improper handling of food can cause serious illness, so remember the four steps to food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill. Wash your hands and surfaces often during food preparation using warm water and soap. Keep raw chicken, seafood and other meat separate from other food when grocery shopping and in the refrigerator, and use separate cutting boards during food preparation.

Use a food thermometer to ensure meals are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Refrigerate perishable food within two hours. Never thaw frozen food on the counter. Always do so in the refrigerator, in cold water or the microwave. Foodborne germs, such as bacteria, parasites, viruses, can multiply in foods left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Be alert for people, especially children, with food allergies. One in 13 children under the age of 18 in the United States is allergic to foods such as peanuts, wheat, milk, tree nuts or eggs. Many children can have severe reactions. Monitor children with allergies during the game to know what they are eating. Also, be mindful of pet poisoning. Chocolates, cocoa, candy and other products containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener, are poisonous to pets and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and even death.

If food poisoning does happen, you’ll typically see symptoms in a few hours, including nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever. 

Drinking Safety

If you drink alcohol, it’s important to do so safely before, during and after the game.

People often count how many drinks they’ve had, but don’t take into account the volume or alcohol content of those drinks. A standard alcoholic drink is 12 ounces of beer at 5 percent alcohol by volume, 5 ounces of wine at 12 percent alcohol by volume or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor at 40 percent alcohol by volume. But most alcoholic drinks are not consistently measured, which makes it difficult to know precisely how much alcohol you are consuming. Also, drinks today, especially craft beers, often have a much higher alcohol content than in the past.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include confusion, stupor, inability to wake up, slow or irregular breathing, blue skin color, low body heat, vomiting or seizures. “Sleeping it off” is never a safe option. A person who appears to be very drunk or has passed out may be showing early signs of alcohol poisoning and be in danger. Immediate medical help is essential. Most states provide immunity from arrest and prosecution for anyone who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for an overdose victim as well as immunity for the person suffering the overdose. 

For hangovers, the best action is to stay hydrated.

Vaping, Liquid Nicotine and Edible Cannabis Products

Be mindful of what products guests bring into your home if you’re hosting a Super Bowl party. Keep all edible cannabis, vaping and nicotine products away from children and pets. These products can be enticing to children and often contain unknown amounts of THC, which may cause sickness. Too much cannabis can cause a child to stop breathing. 

If you experience unexpected symptoms, fear you’ve been exposed to a dangerous substance or have concerns about the safety of a medicine or product, call your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up, having a seizure or appears to be having a heart attack or stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. 


To interview Julius M. Gardin, contact Maud Alobawone at [email protected] or 848-445-1913

To interview Dr. Diane Calello or Bruce Ruck, contact Alicia Gambino at [email protected] or 973-972-9280 ext.107.