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Summer safety tips from OHSU Doernbecher and the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU

The arrival of summer brings lots of fun opportunities to be outside with family and friends, enjoying the sunshine, playing in the water and taking part in many types of activities. However, it is important to remember that these favored months can bring an increase in the incidence of poisonings and other accidents for our children and loved ones, especially when there is a change in the household routine, such as a weekend outing, family vacation or visitors in your home.

The Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University and the Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital suggest following these helpful summer safety tips:

Ensure proper use and storage of pesticides and insect repellants

  • Use proper safety methods when storing, applying or disposing of pesticides and their containers; all pesticides are poisonous and can have serious effects on people, pets and wildlife.
  • Be sure that garden chemicals, solvents, cleaning agents and medications are stored in locked cabinets out of the reach of children.
  • DEET (at less than 5 percent) and Picaridin insect repellents are safe for your family; follow instructions on the label and supervise children when applying insect repellants.

Avoid poisonous plants and mushrooms

  • Identify poisonous indoor and outdoor plants, including berries on plants, in your family’s vicinity. You may want to remove particularly dangerous ones from your property.
  • Consider all mushrooms poisonous unless positively identified otherwise by a trained mycologist (mushroom expert).

Keep cleaning solvents away from children and pets

  • Follow label instructions on cleaning materials carefully.
  • Ensure proper ventilation when using cleaning products.
  • Do not leave any cleaning supplies within reach of children; store these types of products in locked cabinets.
  • Never put cleaning agents in soda bottles or old food containers for storage.
  • Rinse empty containers thoroughly and recap before discarding.

Avoid exposure to products containing hydrocarbons

  • Store products with hydrocarbons in their original containers out of reach of children. These include car wash supplies (especially wheel and chrome cleaners), rust removers, antifreeze, carburetor fluid, tiki torch oil, gasoline, motor oil, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid, oil-based paints, paint thinners and turpentine. They are very dangerous if swallowed.

Ensure window safety

  • Lock windows when they are closed.
  • Never let your child open windows by themselves.
  • Prevent windows from opening more than four inches by using window guards. These are available online, or at the Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher.
  • Don’t place furniture near windows.
  • Screens don’t prevent falls. They are not strong enough to support even young children.

Protect yourself and your children from lawn mower injuries

  • Keep children away from lawn mowers at all times, even when they are not in use; children younger than 5 should be kept indoors during mowing to prevent them from suddenly running in front of the mower. Teach your child that lawn mowers are not toys.
  • Inspect the area to be mowed; look for stones, tree branches, nails and wires – these objects can be expelled by the mower, causing serious injury.
  • Don’t cut wet grass.
  • Perform lawn mower maintenance at the beginning of each season and before each use. Check safety features often.

Properly prevent and care for animal and insect bites and stings

  • Wear long pants and sleeves; avoid scented cosmetic products and don’t go barefoot, especially through rocky and bushy areas.
  • Be sure tetanus immunizations are current.
  • Wash any broken skin thoroughly and consult your physician.
  • Consult a physician immediately if signs of an allergic reaction occur, including rapid swelling of the bitten area as well as the face and neck, and hives or rash spreading over the body. Call 911 if someone is having difficulty breathing.

Avoid sunburn and heat stroke

  • Wear sunscreen, hats, sunglasses with UV protection and loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that breathes. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Use a product with an SPF of 30 or more.
  • Drink plenty of water; be sure children drink water, even if they’re not thirsty.
  • Avoid overexertion on hot days; take frequent breaks to rest and cool down; if possible, exercise or play in shady areas.
  • Keep children out of the sun during midday when the sun’s rays are the strongest; keep infants younger than 6 months in the shade at all times.
  • Consult a physician if symptoms of dehydration or heat exhaustion occur, including blistering burns, severe headache, cool clammy skin or muscle cramps and dizziness.

Safeguard against food poisoning

  • Carefully prepare and store all food during picnics, barbecues, camping trips, etc.; check out for food safety tips.
  • Consult a physician if symptoms of food poisoning occur, including vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Handle fireworks with caution

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of fireworks at home. Enjoy safe and professional local displays instead.
  • Never allow children to light fireworks and do not leave children alone with fireworks; keep bystanders at a safe distance.
  • Read all fireworks instructions carefully.
  • Never light fireworks in a container.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies.
  • Do not attempt to relight fireworks that have not gone off, soak them in water and throw them away.
  • Only light fireworks outside.
  • Keep flammable liquids, such as gasoline, at a safe distance.

Maximize fun and keep your family safe in the water

  • Supply a properly fitted personal flotation device for each boat passenger. The Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher provides more information on life jackets.
  • Always carefully supervise children in and around water.
  • Don’t swim during a storm or when there is lightning.
  • Check the depth of the water before jumping; don’t jump into water that is less than 9 feet deep.
  • Be aware of currents and waves.
  • Never mix boating or other water sports with alcohol.
  • Visit for safety information on boating and other water activities, such as jet skiing.
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