How to Keep Your Yard Safe This Summer

Garden parties, barbecues, and running through sprinklers are the essence of summertime. Unfortunately, so are bee stings, swimming accidents, and bouts of food poisoning. It's these types of backyard calamities that help make the stretch between May and September the busiest season for emergency room visits. Product-related injuries alone (grill mishaps and sparkler misfires, for instance) account for more than 3.5 million trips to the ER each summer (on average, over 750,000 more than in winter). To help keep your backyard safe—and you out of the ER—take these steps.

Food Safety
Don't eat dirty fruit:
Eating a not-quite-cooked burger isn't the only way to get food poisoning at a BBQ. In fact, you're more likely to get into gastrointestinal trouble with fruit. Over a 10-year span, produce caused 28,315 people to become sick—more reported cases than those from beef or poultry, notes the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Do clean everything: Rinse all fruits and veggies—even seemingly ready-to-serve stuff, such as salads in bags, to be extrasafe—before eating. Don't forget to wash melons, limes, oranges, and the like, too. Harmful bacteria can be spread when you cut into or peel them.

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Keeping Your Lawn Tidy
Don't let kids help with mowing:
The lawn mower is designed to trim grass, but it will cut anything else in its path. Just ask the 68,000 people who get in the way of a blade each year. Most of those injuries—85%—happen to children younger than 10.

Do ride solo in a cleared yard: Have a ride-on mower? Never let a child perch on your lap; she could tumble off and get run over. It's best to keep kids out of the yard altogether when you're working, so no one accidentally gets hit. While you're at it, clear the lawn of sticks, stones, and toys that could be easily run over and become projectiles.

Protect your pets, too with these 7 summer safety tips.

Avoid Swarms of Insects
Don't swat bugs:
You don't have to be trapped in a straight-to-video horror flick to be swarmed by insects. When disturbed, wasps emit a chemical that alerts others to join the attack.

Do move inside: When a buzzing bug comes close, put down anything it may be attracted to, such as a sweet drink, and avoid sudden movements. If you get stung anyway, go inside to avoid the masses that might follow. To remove the stinger, swipe it with the edge of a credit card; then wash the area.

If you were stung several times, feel nauseated, or have swelling that spreads more than 2 inches from the site, seek medical care—you could be having an allergic reaction. And if you're with someone who's having a reaction, call 911 right away and look in her bag for an Epi-Pen, an auto-injector of epinephrine, which narrows blood vessels and opens airways; administer according to the label.

Whether she has an injector or not, give her an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, and have her lie on her back with her feet higher than her head.

Smart Ways to Deal with Sparkling Lights
Don't play with fireworks
Sparklers are harmless, right? Not quite. They reach 2,000°F, making them no safer than big pyrotechnics. Sparklers, firecrackers, and bottle rockets are responsible for the majority of the 9,600 annual fireworks-related ER visits.

Love barbecues but afraid of overdoing it? Enjoy cookouts again with these under 400-calorie summer treats.

Do leave it to the pros Most experts say the only safe fireworks are the ones you're not setting off. If you can't resist staging your own light show, however, read all directions before starting (and follow them); set the devices off on a smooth, flat surface, far from buildings and flammable materials; and keep a bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.

Never try to relight a firework that failed to launch, don't let kids under age 15 handle explosives, and supervise those 16 and older, say authorities at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Prevent Bites from Creepy Crawlers
Don't join the ant parade:
Beware of a little hill with no hole at the top: It may house 200,000 or more fire ants. Though they're dangerous only to those who are allergic—about 1% of us—they're aggressive, and getting stung hurts. (Think: itchy pimplelike bumps that can become infected.)

Do wear socks: Sporting a Gramps-like socks-and-sandals combo is more effective at keeping fire ants at bay than using repellent, a study from Mississippi State University finds. If you can't bear to make that kind of fashion statement, remove ants with a fast brushing motion. (Shaking or rinsing won't work; they hold on tight.) Seek medical care if you have chest pain, nausea, shortness of breath, hives, or dizziness.

Pool Safety Tips
Don't be casual about lifeguarding. Nine out of 10 kids who drown do so while under adult care, says Angela Mickalide, PhD, director of education and outreach for the Home Safety Council. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among those ages 1 to 9.

Do rotate watch duty: Alternate a designated lifeguard every 20 minutes. "Otherwise, everybody is responsible, making nobody truly responsible," Mickalide says. Regardless of the laws in your area, every pool owner should know CPR and install a fence that encloses the pool.

An underwater alarm adds another layer of protection ($200; Poolguard Alarms for stores). Set it when you don't want anyone in the water; it'll buzz loudly if an object heavier than 18 pounds falls in. Don't take the grill for granted Just because the gas barbecue worked fabulously last season doesn't mean it'll do the same this year. Indeed, half of all gas-grill fires begin with a leak in the hose, a feature that can become damaged between uses.

Is your child's exposure to chlorine in swimming pools a health hazard?

Do check all attachments: Before firing up the grill this summer, apply a light soap-and-water mixture to the hose. If the solution starts to bubble, propane is escaping. Turn off the gas and replace the hose. Repeat this test any time you disconnect and reconnect the tubing. It's also important to keep your grill at least 3 feet away from any flammable object.

5 Steps for Surviving Mosquito Season

1. Dump the kiddie pool:
Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so overturn any concave containers and furniture coverings that collect rain. Make sure rain gutters and downspouts are clear and draining properly, too.

2. Get dunked: Have a birdbath? Toss in a mosquito dunk ($13, www.bugsource.com), a floating ring that kills mosquito larvae but doesn't harm birds.

3. Use picaridin: Repellents containing picaridin, a DEET alternative, have been shown to be safe and effective. We like nongreasy Off! Skintastic Clean Feel ($5).

4. Skip citronella candles: They're effective only in very small areas.

5. Treat with Secret: If you get bitten, dab on a roll-on antiperspirant. It contains aluminum salts that help the body to reabsorb the fluid in the bug bite, reducing swelling and itching.

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