The word summer is synonymous with fun in the sun, family camping trips, and long talks with your youngest daughter about how playground sand is not actually fairy dust, “so please don’t try to turn this new nanny into a unicorn. She’s very qualified and Mommy can’t pay for a third scratched cornea.”
And yet, for all of summer’s most welcome delights — no school for three months, anyone? — there are many hidden (and not-so-hidden) dangers. Take boozy backyard barbecues, for example, and the two too many Bikini Martinis that are sure to send second cousin Sheryl high-kicking into the Weber… again. Aside from dinner and her fallback dream of becoming a world-famous leg model being ruined, suddenly you’ll have to contend with another avalanche of flaming charcoals cascading across your patio. Come on, you just power washed that thing!
When you’re having a good time, it’s all too easy to let your guard down. After all, summer is the time of the year to relax, right? But it’s in these moments that accidents happen, and people can get hurt, and before you know it you’re sprinting to intercept your toddler before she plays the world’s worst game of hot potato with a burning charcoal briquet.
Thankfully, these sorts of incidents are all avoidable — so with the evergreen ideal of risk prevention in mind, let’s get straight to the next post in our Summer Safety Series. Coming up? Our fresh pair of quick safety tips geared toward keeping your family out of harm’s way — and you sane until school starts back up again in August.
Ticks and Mosquitoes Really Can Bother
Raise your hand if you’ve gotten a bug bite before. One, two, three — all of you…
If for some reason you didn’t raise your hand just now, it’s probably because you were too busy scratching. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. But while you take a few minutes to apply some calamine lotion, you might be delighted to learn that there are more than 3,000 different species of mosquitoes in the world. Yes, the loathsome creature we all know and hate has more varietals than you could shake a flyswatter at. If you’re like us, you’ve likely spent more than one evening wondering why we haven’t up and eradicated mosquitoes from the world. After all, there are no keystone species; no single ecosystem that would collapse in their absence, right? Who would miss them?
The reality is that saying toodle-loo to every mosquito species would actually be quite silly: only 200 of the 3000 like to feast on human blood. But among those 200, there is something to be concerned about: vector species, or those capable of incubating and transmitting diseases.
Though there haven’t been any case lately, the invasive mosquito species that have made Greater Los Angeles County their home do still have the potential to transmit diseases — if someone who’s been infected in a hotspot travels to California, and is then bitten by a mosquito here. That’s how Florida’s Zika outbreak began.
In other parts of the world these mosquitoes are responsible for the deaths of millions of people every year, and it’s these same diseases that we’re all a risk for. Some of the diseases that affect Southern California residents (and their pets) include: West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, Zika Virus, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Heartworm (cats and dogs), Western Equine encephalomyelitis, and Malaria.
Although eradicating mosquitoes from the entire world is unlikely, there are ways for you to stop their spread in your neighborhood. The biggest preventative measure you can take is to eliminate any standing water, because that’s where mosquitoes breed. Here are some common backyard locations that can hold stagnant water: clogged rain gutters; neglected or out-of-order swimming pools; hot tubs, ponds, or fountains; containers such as rain barrels, cans, buckets, jars, flower pots, etc.; old tires; any container that can hold water for more than seven days. Dumping out these sources will mean that the female mosquito won’t have a place to lay her up-to-300 eggs. Let’s be honest, do you really want to breed your own mosquitoes?
Other precautions you can take to protect yourself from mosquitoes include: always wearing bug spray when you’re outdoors (bearing in mind there are only a handful of chemicals actually approved and effective as repellents); making sure your window screens don’t have holes or gaps in and around them; wearing light colored, loose fitting clothing when heading outside (fun fact, mosquitoes can still bite you through tight clothing); and staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active.
But what about ticks, our other most hated critter? Lucky for us, ticks carrying Lyme disease are not actually a major concern in Southern California. It’s up in the northern part of the state where Lyme is most prevalent. With that being said, tick bites can be itchy and uncomfortable, and actually pretty icky, so make sure you apply that bug spray and tuck your pants into your socks — especially if you’re going to be running through any fields of tall grass.
Lawn Care, Don’t Dare
Little fingers and toes don’t mix well with power tools or fast-spinning blades. It might be a bummer to keep the kiddos in the house on a sunny day, but outside is the last place they should be when your yard is getting a haircut — unless, of course, they’re the ones doing the mowing. One of the downsides of living in a place where every morning brings yet another day of sun is just. how. often. the lawn needs to be mowed. Thankfully, we have a relatively cheap labor supply at our disposal; unready and unwilling to perform the task when we’ve got bigger fish to fry: our children.
It’s the day every parent dreams of, isn’t it? That beautiful age when our kids are finally old enough to mow the lawn. For homes that use a walk-behind or hand mower, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be at least 12 before they’re given this responsibility. Riding lawn mowers shouldn’t be used by children until they are at least 16. In either case, however, age shouldn’t be the deciding factor. It all comes down to their maturity level, and whether they possess the strength and coordination to safely operate the lawn mower.
Here are a few of their other suggestions:
- Use a mower that has a control to stop the blade if the handle is let go.
- Don’t pull the lawn mower backwards unless absolutely necessary.
- Turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop before removing the grass catcher, inspecting or repairing the mower, or crossing gravel paths or roads.
- Don’t let kids ride as passengers on riding mowers.
- Wear closed toed shoes, clothing with long sleeves and long pants when mowing the lawn.
- Wear protective goggles. If a lawn mower runs over an object in the yard, it could be tossed up in the air and hit someone in the eye.
- Wear earmuffs or earplugs to protect ears from the noise of the motor, which can cause hearing loss.
- Don’t listen to music while mowing the lawn. The sound of the music plus noise from the lawn mower can be dangerous for your ears.
(The writer of this post is embarrassed to admit that she followed none of these rules as a kid. Especially #8. That she still has the recommended number of fingers and toes is probably a divine miracle.)
Even if you do follow every one of these safety guidelines, there are other things to consider. Take bagged lawn mowers, for example. As we’ve all learned the hard way, they’ve kind of got a tendency to violently eject anything that isn’t grass — meaning rocks, twigs, and mulch are all projectiles lying in wait. Clearing your yard of these beforehand can spare you a broken window or an unwelcome pebble to the forehead.
Yearly estimates of injuries associated with lawn and garden tools that are severe enough to require an emergency visit range from 80,000 to 300,000. Always make sure your gardening equipment is in good working order before pulling it out of the shed. Of all things gardening related, injuries are one thing we don’t want to see grow.
Surviving Summer Should Not Be Hard
This was the seventh post in our inaugural Summer Safety Series! In case you missed them, and would like to take a break from you favorite beach read, you can check out the other posts in the series here:
#1. Hot Tips for Your Family, Part 1 [pools, trampolines, and food poisoning]
#2. Help! I’ve Created A Lobster! [sun safety]
#3. Heatstroke Isn’t Cool [heat safety]
#4. ‘Cause Baby You’re a Firework… Victim [firework safety]
#5. As Temperatures Rise, So Do Hot Car Incidents [hot car safety]
#6. (Please Don’t) Just Keep Swimming [swimming pool parasites]
Next week, recalls! Summer is a great time for toys and playthings, but sometimes those toys aren’t safe. We’ll be taking a look at a few household items and kid things currently under recall. Are these dangerous objects lurking around your house?
Then, the week after that, we’ll be checking back in on the topics we’ve covered over the past two months, and how these issues have affected people around the country so far this summer. If you have a topic you’d like us to cover in this series, let us know in the comments or on Facebook.
Stay safe out there, and Happy Summer!
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“Dear Science: Why can’t we just get rid of all the mosquitoes?” The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
“Should we wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth?” The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
“Controlling Mosquitoes at Home.” Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
“Tick-Borne Diseases.” California Department of Public Health. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
“Is your child ready to take on mowing the lawn?” American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
“Summer Safety Tips.” National Safety Council. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
“Make Summer Safe for Kids.” Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved 25 July 2019.