Protect Yourself in the Great Outdoors
The sun is starting to shine which drives us all outside. But, we are not the only ones who come out once the nice weather hits. Fresh air and sunshine is great for the mind, body, and soul, but be sure to take proper precautions when heading outdoors. Whether you’re relaxing in the backyard, turning up your garden, hitting the pool, or exploring the great outdoors, here are some ways from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help keep you and your family healthy this spring and summer.
Warmer temperatures aren’t just attractive to people, but to mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus; 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 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. You can also treat clothing with the repellent, permethrin, (which protects through several washings) or purchase clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin. Always follow the directions on repellent packaging. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease are most active in May, June, and July, but check for ticks in all warm months to protect yourself against other tick-borne diseases.
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, fatigue, body aches, or fever 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 and 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.
A sandbox is fun place for you and young children to play, but know that a cat sees that sandbox as a litter box. So, keep the sandbox covered to protect young children for toxoplasmosis, a parasite that people can get from contaminated cat feces (stool).
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
Protect yourself and your family from recreational water illnesses (illnesses caused by germs or chemicals in recreational water) by doing your part to keep germs out of the pool.
swimming, and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Keeping germs out of the pool means a healthier swimming experience for everyone.
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.
We Care About Our Pets, Too
While you’re outside enjoying the weather, remember to protect your pets too. Keeping healthy pets will help keep you and your family healthy. Children can get roundworm and hookworm from soil contaminated by pet feces (stool), so make sure that puppies and kittens are seen by a veterinarian and dewormed. Protect your family pets from ticks and fleas by keeping them on a flea and tick control program. Talk to your veterinarian for advice on the appropriate anti-bug products to use on your pet.
In the Great Outdoors
When you’re out on the trail, whether hiking, camping, or hunting, protect yourself from mosquitoes and other bugs by using insect and tick repellent. Wear permethrin-treated clothing when practical. Check your clothes and body for ticks daily. If you find any ticks, carefully remove them with tweezers. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease are most active in May, June, and July, but check for ticks in all warm months to protect yourself against other tick-borne diseases.
Just because a stream’s water looks clear, it doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink. Giadia and Cryptospordium are two parasites that you can’t see, but they can make you very sick, so follow healthy swimming tips. Always treat or filter water to make it safe to drink. Bats are fun to watch as they flutter around at dusk. In many camp situations, the mere presence or sighting of bats is common and normal. Sometimes, bats may be infected with rabies and may pose a risk for exposure to humans. Remind children to never touch a bat. If you are bitten by a bat, wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical advice immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing. Follow instructions for capturing bats and reducing exposure while outdoors.
And what about those slithering creatures? Most are non-venomous but there are many species of rattlesnakes in the United States. Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes in the United States. They can accurately strike at up to one-third their body length. Rattlesnakes use their rattles or tails as a warning when they feel threatened. Rattlesnakes may be found sunning themselves near logs, boulders, or open areas. These snakes may be found in most work habitats including the mountains, prairies, deserts, and beaches.
- Do not try to handle any snake.
- Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves when possible.
- Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood where a snake may be hiding.
- Be aware that snakes tend to be active at night and in warm weather.
- Wear boots and long pants when working outdoors.
- Wear leather gloves when handling brush and debris.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible (dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services.)
- Try to remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snake bite.
- Keep still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom.
- Inform your supervisor.
- Apply first aid if you cannot get to the hospital right away.
- Lay or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart.
- Wash the bite with soap and water.
- Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
Do NOT do any of the following:
- Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it.
- Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten, seek immediate medical attention.
- Do not apply a tourniquet.
- Do not slash the wound with a knife.
- Do not suck out the venom.
- Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
- Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
- Do not drink caffeinated beverages.