Outdoor Safety

Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The return of warmer temperatures brings the opportunity for freedom, relaxation, exploration, and being closer to nature. Whether you're relaxing in the backyard, turning up your garden, or exploring the great outdoors, here are some ways to help keep you and your family healthy this spring.

Beware of Bugs

Warmer temperatures aren't just attractive to people, but to mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus , St. Louis encephalitis virus , eastern equine encephalitis virus and even dengue; ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other serious infections; and fleas can transmit plague.

To prevent these illnesses, use an appropriate insect and tick repellent and apply it properly. Prime mosquito-biting hours are usually from dusk to dawn, but ticks are out at all times. Young ticks are so small that they can be difficult to see, but both young and adult ticks hungrily look to animals and sometimes people to bite.

To keep ticks at a distance, avoid tick-infested areas (especially places with leaf-litter and high grasses) and use repellent containing 20% DEET. If it’s primarily mosquitoes that are the problem, CDC recommends repelling them with products that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. You can also treat clothing with permethrin (which protects through several washings) or purchase clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin. Always follow the directions on repellent packaging.

After coming indoors, shower as soon as possible and check your body for ticks. Make sure that your children also bathe or shower and get checked for ticks. Wash and tumble dry your clothing and check your pets for ticks. If you find an attached tick, don't panic, ticks are easy to remove with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Consult your healthcare provider if you develop a rash, fever, body aches, fatigue or headache, stiff neck, disorientation in the 1-3 weeks following a bite. It could be any number of illnesses.

Pesticides, vegetation-free play areas, and landscaping techniques for tick-free zones can also help limit your exposure to ticks and other insects.

Around the Yard

It is now time to seal up, trap up, and clean up to prevent rodent infestation. As you're clearing out clutter, fill any gaps or holes inside and outside your home. Eliminate or seal rodent food sources such as pet food, bird feeders, and garbage cans. Elevate hay, woodpiles, and garbage cans at least 1 foot off the ground, and trim grass and shrubbery within 100 feet of your home.

In the yard, remove any items that may collect standing water, such as buckets, old tires, and toys. Mosquitoes can breed in them in just days. You can reduce the number of ticks around your home by removing leaf litter, brush and woodpiles around your house and at the edge of your yard. By clearing trees and brush in your yard, you can reduce the likelihood that deer, rodents, and ticks will live there. Replace or repair torn window screens to keep bugs out of the house.
Gardening is a great outdoor activity for people of all ages. Stay safe and healthy as you grab your tools and head outside. Wear gloves, use safety gear when handling equipment and chemicals, protect yourself from the sun, and use insect repellent. Also watch out for extreme heat and know your limitations. You can also review and share with your love ones some tips for preventing heat-related illnesses.

Do not allow children to play in areas that are soiled with pet or other animal stool. Cover sandboxes when not in use to make sure that animals do not get inside and contaminate them with parasites that can cause diseases like toxocariasis and toxoplasmosis.

Pollens and air pollutants can be triggers for allergic reactions and asthma. Some experiences include nasal and sinus allergies and hives. Asthma can cause recurrent symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Stay healthy by properly taking any prescription or over-the-counter allergy medicine and having and following an asthma action plan. Wearing a protective nose and mouth mask, or even sunglasses or protective eyewear, while doing yard work could help to avoid the triggers that cause allergy and asthma complications.

Fun in the Sun

Prevent skin cancer. Avoid being outdoors during the midday if the sun is intense, use sunscreen with at least SPF 15, cover up with clothing, wear a brimmed hat, and wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. Be aware of the signs of heat stress.