12 Ways to Summer-Proof Your Home

Create a sanctuary safe from bugs and other seasonal saboteurs
By Barbara Loecher, Prevention

The pool's been filled, the grill is out, and the tiki torches are ready to be lit for your backyard cookout.

Not to rain on your picnic, but along with calculating how many hamburger buns you need, it's also time to think about how you can enjoy this season safely. Summer ushers in its own particular perils: accidents, food poisoning, and bugs that carry Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and the like. It's especially important to keep an eye on your kids. The National Safe Kids Campaign found that more children have serious accidents--often involving water--during the summer (particularly July) than in any other season.

Fortunately, taking the following precautions can make these days of summer as carefree as the ones you enjoyed when you were a child. (To ramp up the fun factor even more, try some of these 50 Fun Things You Must Do This Summer.)

In the Pool
The problems:
Kids in the water without adult supervision; swimming pools that aren't adequately fenced or equipped with lifesaving gear.

The solutions:
Be a lifeguard:
Make sure a grown-up is watching the kids whenever they're around the pool. Even kids adept enough to swim in the "sharks" class at the Y aren't "drown-proofed," says Gary Smith, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University. Remind anyone who watches your kids to keep infants and toddlers within arm's reach at poolside. Learn first aid and CPR from your local Red Cross.

Fence it in: Surround your pool with a four-sided, nonclimbable fence that's at least 4 feet high, self-closing, and self-locking. Some municipalities require higher fences; contact your city or town hall for details. Keep a telephone (to call 911) and rescue equipment, such as a shepherd's crook or flotation device, by the pool.

BEWARE: 6 Signs You Shouldn't Swim There

At the Grill
The problems:
Fires; burns; carbon monoxide poisoning; grills that lack the latest safety features.

The solutions:
Find a fireproof location:
Set up your grill on a nonflammable surface 3 feet from your house, garage, the kitschy lanterns adorning your deck, and anything else that might go up in flames.

Grill in the open: Charcoal grills in particular produce lots of colorless and odorless--but deadly--carbon monoxide gas, which can quickly reach dangerous concentrations in enclosed spaces such as covered porches or garages.

PLUS: Try to avoid these Most Fattening Foods of Summer.

Don't play with fire: Add lighter fluid before, never after, you've lit the charcoal. An ember could ignite the fluid, and the flames could travel up to the can, leaving you with a fire on your hands--literally. Invest in a long-necked, multipurpose lighter to further protect your digits. (Zippo makes a $20 black-and-silver model so hip you can imagine 007 grilling with it.)

Be grill savvy: Replace propane grills that are 10 or more years old. Newer ones have several safety features to minimize risks of fire and explosion, explains Ken Giles, of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Store extra tanks of propane upright and away from heat (i.e., not under the grill). When they're empty, trade them in at a gas station or hardware store that sells propane. (Show off your grill skills with these 12 Great Grilling Recipes.)

At the Picnic Table
The problems:
Germs in raw and undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood; germs that proliferate when food sits outside.

The solutions:
Prepare with care:
Use one set of dishes and utensils for raw meats and another for all other foods to avoid contaminating the latter with germs from the former. Cook meats until a food thermometer inserted into the thickest portion reads 160°F for burgers and ribs and 180°F for chicken. Digital fork thermometers (available at kitchen stores) with temperature probes on their tines make checking easier.

Serve smart: Set hot food out in chafing dishes and cold food in dishes placed in bowls of ice. Cover food to keep bacteria-carrying flies at bay. Make sure to provide serving utensils to discourage the use of bacteria-bearing fingers. And toss the leftovers.

RELATED: 10 Strange Things You Didn't Know Were Contagious

Where the Bugs Are
The problems:
Pencil-point-size deer ticks that spread Lyme disease; standard-size ticks that carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever; mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus and encephalitis; stinging insects that send highly allergic people into anaphylactic shock.

The solutions:
Hide from stingers:
Save the perfume and retro flower-power shirt for indoor events. Stinging insects may assume anything that's flower-scented or -colored is a flower and may pursue it, explains Sheldon Jacobson, MD, professor of emergency medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

Make them bug off:
Use insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin to deter mosquitoes and ticks. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, DEET is safe for kids 2 months and older. Two products, Ultrathion and Sawyer's Family Insect Repellent, are formulated so that very little DEET is absorbed by the skin.

RELATED: Bug bites are just one of these 9 Sneaky Summer Pains.

Cover up: If you're trekking through woods, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and tuck your cuffs into your socks. Stick to paths, avoiding brush and high grass where ticks prefer to perch.

Discourage visitors: Spread a 3-foot-wide swath of wood chips between your lawn and the woods to deter ticks, which can't navigate the chips. Make your yard inhospitable to infected mosquitoes by getting rid of their favorite breeding ground--standing water. Clear clogs from gutters; change the water in birdbaths twice weekly; change pets' outdoor water dishes daily.

Get rid of hangers-on: As soon as you come inside, shower and check yourself for ticks. (If you can, find a friend to help. Deer ticks are minuscule and elusive.) If you spot a tick, use tweezers to grab it by the head, and firmly and slowly pull it out. Then flush it down the toilet; never kill ticks with your fingers. Post-shower, put on fresh clothes; then toss dirty duds into the washer and then into the dryer set on high to kill stowaways. (Learn more about Lyme with Why One Man Volunteered To Have 8 Blood-Sucking Ticks Attached To His Knee.)

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