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Outdoor Summer Safety

Posted: June 28th, 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Temperatures are warm, the sun is shining and kids are out of school.  Summertime is “outside time”, so read on for tips to keep your family safe while outdoors!

Plants and Mushrooms

Learn the names of all the plants in your garden and landscaping, and label them with both their common and botanical names (tip: bring a cut of the plant/flower to your local nursery or greenhouse if you don’t know what you have).  Consult the IPC’s toxic plant list to help plan your garden, especially if you have little ones. Teach children to never eat mushrooms or berries growing outside. Edible mushrooms and even berries can look very similar to toxic species, so the IPC recommends never eating “picked-from-the-wild” produce.

Pesticides and Pool Chemicals

First and foremost, read and follow all directions on the label.  Remember that some products come as a concentrate and need to be diluted before use.

  • Use these products in a well-ventilated area and keep your kids and pets away during application.   It’s also a good idea to wash your hands and change your clothes after using these products.
  • Always store these potentially dangerous chemicals in their original containers.  Keep them in a locked cabinet or shed, away from children and never near food or drinks.

Food Poisoning Prevention

Nothing puts a bigger damper on summer fun than a bad case of food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.  Handling and storing food properly can keep everyone out of the bathroom and in the pool. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating and wash hands frequently during cooking.  Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat, fish and poultry.

When you take that raw meat out to the grill, don’t put it back on the same plate for serving; get a fresh one.  Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot:  serve food immediately after cooking it, and take items out of the refrigerator at the last possible minute before bringing them to them table.  Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours, and eat them within 3-4 days (for most foods).


Mosquitoes, bees, spiders and the rest of the insect world love summer as much as we do.  Most stings or bites will usually cause a red, itchy or painful bump, but poisonous or venomous species can cause severe reactions.  Always call IPC if you are bitten or stung for specific recommendations.  Apply insect repellent (see below) to avoid becoming a snack.

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

Using “for-the-skin” summer products can protect you from the dangers of UV rays and bug bites.  Follow these tips for safe use and application of these products:

  • Be sure to use the product as directed on the label
  • Keep insect repellents and sunscreens locked out of sight and reach of children.  The IPC gets many calls every summer regarding children who have ingested sunscreen, likely because it often has a sweet, fruity odor. Luckily, a small ingestion of sunscreen is minimally toxic
  • Don’t let children handle the bottles; apply to your own hands first, then put it on the child
  • Do not use on wounds or broken skin
  • When using sprays, do not spray directly onto the face.  Spray it into your hands, and then apply to face to avoid getting it into the eyes.
  • Insect repellent: concentrations of up to 30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) have been shown to be safe for use on children older than 2 months.  Picaridin is another effective insect repellent.
  • Sunscreen: use a product labeled ‘broad spectrum’ (meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays) with a minimum SPF of 15.   Reapply every 2 hours that you are outside, and choose a water-resistant formula if you will be swimming or playing sports.

So remember these tips while you are out having fun in the sun this Fourth of July weekend.  For more information on hazards of this noisy holiday, check out our Toxic Pyrotechnics and Other Fourth of July Hazards blog.  As always, if you or anyone you know is exposed to any potential harmful substance, call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for medical advice.

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