Summing Up Summer Safety

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for Progressive Agriculture Foundation

FINALLY…..after what seemed to be an endless winter, beautiful weather is upon us! This year, Mother Nature seemed to skip over spring and move us straight into summer. At least that was true for me in Central Pennsylvania. With summer comes warm weather, bright sunshine and numerous outdoor activities. For many of us, Memorial Day serves as the unofficial start to summer and as June approaches, schools beginning letting out for summer break. Soon the anticipation for family vacations, picnics, and other fun-filled activities sets in. However, the moment we step out our front door, we run the risk of being faced with potentially dangerous situations.

In the hustle and bustle of our hectic schedules, we tend to forget key items to keep us safe on a day-to-day basis. We grab the swim gear and forget the sunscreen, we jump on our bike or ATV and forget the helmet, and we load up the canoe or kayak and forget the life vest! On many occasions, we hop in our car and forget to do the simplest things like fasten our seatbelt because we are only going a short distance. Even when we assure our seatbelt is fastened, we become distracted adjusting the air conditioning, finding our favorite station on radio, or sending what we believe is an urgent text message. I am sure all of us have been guilty of one these scenarios in the past! This summer, let’s pledge to change that!

As we kick-off summer, let’s strive to make special memories with our loved ones and avoid tragedies at all cost. Here are a few tips to help make sure your summer is a safe, healthy, and happy one:

  1. It is OK to say NO! If your child asks if they can ride on the tractor with you, ask to leave their helmet off as they hop on their ATV, or leave their seatbelt unfastened when taking a quick trip to the grocery store, think about the potential consequences before you agree. Accidents can happen in the blink of eye and many times they happen close to home. What can happen in a matter of seconds can have repercussions that last a lifetime! Say NO to potential hazards and say YES to safety at all times!
  2. Put together a first aid kit to take on the go! This can be a fun family project and can include some additional items that are most needed in the summer months such as sunscreen, aloe, bug spray, medications for bee stings, and tweezers to remove ticks or splinters. Even if your family if lucky enough not to need the first aid kit, you never know when you will be in the presence of another that may be in need of it. It is always best to be prepared!
  3. Don’t forget to hydrate! Water is one of the human body’s basic needs for survival that often gets overlooked. In the extreme heat, drinking water and plenty of it is essential! Don’t forget the H2O when you are on the go!
  4. Summer wouldn’t be the same without picnics! Be sure to use precautions when working around a gas grills or campfires, as well as practice food safety protocols. Wash your hands when handling food and keep food at appropriate temperatures to ensure they do not spoil. A good rule of thumb is to not let perishable foods unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
  5. Keep your cool in and around the pool! Pay attention to signs alerting you to rules and potential dangers in swimming areas. Avoid diving in shallow areas and never swim alone. The handling of pool chemicals can also be a hidden danger. Chemicals are added to the water in pools to stop germs from spreading and keep the pool clean; however, they need to be handled and stored safely to avoid serious injuries.  Nearly 5,000 pool chemical-related injuries, including respiratory, eye and skin injuries, were treated in emergency rooms throughout the United States in 2012.
  6. Avoid distracting behavior while driving! The reports of accidents taking place during the summer holidays is sobering. Be sure to drive responsibly at all times. Avoid drinking alcohol, texting, speeding, and other distracting behavior while behind the wheel. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings and watch for other vehicles that may be driving erratically, as well as pedestrians or animals that may cross your path. Also, if we are traveling a distance and become tired or experience bad weather don’t be afraid to pull over!
  7. Lead by Example! As we reflect on National Family Month, which runs annually from Mother’s Day through Father’s Day, an opportunity exists for families to share special time together, develop or renew relationships, identify or rediscover needs and remind everyone of the importance of family involvement in raising healthy, confident kids for America’s future. This serves as a great opportunity to realize that we are our children’s first teachers and role models. Demonstrating safety at all times is crucial in not only keep our kids safe, but assuring they make safe decisions for years to come!

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. Learn more about our farm Safety Day programs at www.progressiveag.org

Candy or Medicine??? Help Prevent Accidental Poisonings in Young Children

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Many times when we think about poison safety, the thought of household cleaners & chemicals first come to mind; however, medications if placed in the wrong hands can be dangerous & even deadly! While we keep medications and vitamins in convenient areas, like near the bathroom or kitchen sink or on a nightstand, they could be posing a major threat to the children in our lives. Annually, about one million phone calls are made to the Poison Control Center because their child ingested something poisonous.

Eight years ago, I began hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day for elementary school students in Clearfield County, as well as helping out with those offered in neighboring counties. Although our programs are geared towards youth, I was shocked at what I discovered through a chemical safety & poison look-a-like station we offered. Many medications currently on the market resemble popular candy, from M & M’s & Skittles that look like Coricidin to Hershey’s Chocolate that resemble an Ex-Lax to Gummy Bears that look like Vitamins. During the safety days, I was amazed that when I opened my mock-medicine cabinet the children had a very difficult time telling the difference between what was a medicine and what was a candy. It didn’t just stop with the medicine & candy, but the children struggled to distinguish juices and sports drinks, like Powerade and Gatorade, from cleaning and personal products like dish soap, window cleaner, mouthwash, and multi-surface cleaners. According to a 2012 study by Safe Kids Worldwide, approximately 165 young children in the United States visit the emergency room daily after getting into medications. 95% of these cases are children under the age of 5 that ingested medication while unsupervised and the other 5% are due to errors in medication dosages. Therefore, 100% of these cases could have been prevented or avoided! As a parent, this really opened my eyes to the dangers that can be found right in the home. It makes you think about all the measures you go through to keep your children safe, yet there are hidden hazardous right under our nose. Did you ever notice how Comet Cleaner resembles a can of grated Parmesan cheese or chewing tobacco looks like beef jerky or plant food looks like candy sticks? How can we expect a young child to tell the difference? This is scary and it is important to educate our kids about the dangerous of mistaken one of these items for another! Although from 1979 to 2006, the poisoning death rate was cut in half, the poisoning deaths from medication rose from 36% to 64% according to Safe Kids.

Another scary thought is the fact that children’s medication has changed over the years. There have been positive changes with the variety of flavors, from bubble gum to blue raspberry and everything in between, now available to get the most stubborn child to take their medication. Unfortunately this can be a negative when children identify their medication flavors as “yummy” or similar to their favorite candy. Therefore, what can we do to protect our children and prevent accidental overdoses or ingestion from happening? First, always use child-resistant packaging and secure the bottles after use. Secondly, keep all medications locked up and out of sight. Third, when cleaning, gardening, or taking medications be sure to watch children closely. Fourth, be sure to keep original labels on all products and make sure to properly identify medicine and dosage instructions before taking or administrating. Fifth, educate your children using the iconic Mr. Yuk stickers to identify potential poisonous products. This is very helpful to younger children, especially those who cannot yet read, but can associate Mr. Yuk with harmful products. Sixth, never share prescription drugs or medication with anyone other than who they are prescribed to. Finally, keep the number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222 or search for local chapters) posted in a visible, central, and easy to find place so babysitters and other family members can locate it if an emergency arises. For additional information, go to the American Association of Poison Control Centers at http://www.aapcc.org/

In addition to keeping your children and loved ones safe, it is important to keep your community safe as well by disposing of medications properly. Follow FDA (Food & Drug Administration) & ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) guidelines for disposing of drug and medications or talk to a pharmacists if in doubt. Take advantage of community take-back programs, where you can take unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. If there are no specific recommendations for disposal or you are permitted to throw your drugs away in the trash, take them out of the bottle and mix with undesirable items or place in a baggie or can to avoid them getting eaten by a pet or child and to avoid leakage. Also, before discarding your bottles, be sure to remove all personal information from the bottle to avoid identify theft.

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. Learn more about our farm Safety Day programs at www.progressiveag.org