Accident Prevention

Poison Ivy


Found throughout the United States and in the Baltimore area. Can grow as a climbing vine or shrub. Each leaf has three glossy leaflets, with smooth or toothed edges. Leaves are reddish in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in fall. May have white berries.

Poison Oak


Grows as a low shrub in the eastern US, and in tall clumps or long vines. Fuzzy green leaves in clusters of three are lobed or deeply toothed with rounded tips. May have yellow-white berries.

Poison Sumac

Grows as a tall shrub or small tree in bogs in the Northeast. Each leaf has clusters of seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets. Leaves are orange in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in fall. May have yellow-white berries.


Poison ivy and other poison plant rashes can’t be spread from person to person. But it is possible to pick up the rash from plant oils that may have rubbed off onto clothing, pets, garden tools, and other items. The plant oil can linger for years on virtually any surface until it’s washed off with water or rubbing alcohol.  The rash begins with blisters and will only occur where the plant oil has touched the skin, so a person with poison ivy can’t spread it on the body by scratching unless oils have been trapped under fingernails.  When blisters eventually break, the fluid in the blisters is not plant oil and cannot further spread the rash.

Tips for Prevention

• Learn what poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants look like so you can avoid them.

• Wash your garden tools and gloves regularly. Wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into boots, and gloves when you are in areas where poison ivy grows.

• Wash your pet if it may have brushed up against poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Use pet shampoo and water while wearing rubber gloves, such as dishwashing gloves. Most pets will not get a rash from the oils of poison ivy, but the oil can rub off and cause a rash on humans.

• Wash your skin in cool water as soon as possible if you come in contact with a poisonous plant.

• Use the topical product “Ivy Block” if you know you will come into contact with the poisonous plants. This FDA- approved product is available over the counter (OTC).

Tips for Treatment

Don’t scratch the blisters. Bacteria from under your finger- nails can get into the blisters and cause an infection. The rash will eventually disappear without treatment, but itching is uncomfortable.  You can relieve itch by:

• using wet compresses or soaking in cool water

• applying topical OTC itching treatments like calamine lotion, aveno oatmeal bath or cortisone creams.

See a Doctor

• if you have a temperature over 100 F

• if there is pus, soft yellow scabs, or tenderness on the rash

• if the itching gets worse or keeps you awake at night

• if the rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, genital area, or covers more than one-fourth of your skin area

Heat Stress


Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable yet every year many people suffer medical consequences from extreme heat. In the period from 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States. More people died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

People suffer heat-related illness either when they are not able to cool themselves properly by sweating (perhaps due to dehydration) or when sweating isn’t enough – like when body temperature rises rapidly.  Very high body temperatures can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.  Many conditions can interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself properly.  When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly and the body will not cool properly. Other conditions that can increase risk for heat stress are age (very young and very old have the most risk), obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use..  What can you do to decrease risk?

  • Air-conditioning is the number one protection against heat-related illness and death. If you have air conditioning – turn it on.  If you do not have access to air-conditioning in your home, spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, public libraries, or public health sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Become informed. Listen to local news and weather channels or contact your local public health department during extreme heat conditions for health and safety updates

Other Strategies

Replace Salt and Minerals

Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body to function properly.  During periods of exertion, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Sports beverage can replace salt and minerals you lose in sweat.

**Talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage if you are on a low salt or fluid restricted diet.

Clothing and Sunscreen

Wear as little or no clothing when you are at home. If you go outside, wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.  Sunburn can adversely affect your body’s ability to cool itself as well as lead to dehydration.   Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher with both  UVA and UVB protection.

** See my June newsletter for further sun and skin safety information.

Outside Warning Signs

If activity outside in the heat makes your heart pound and/or leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity immediately and get to a cooler area.  Go inside where there is air conditioning or into the shade if you must stay outside. Call for help if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Indoor strategies

Stay indoors in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the local shopping mall or public library; a few hours spent in the air conditioning during the heat of the day can make all the difference. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Electric fans can also help.  When temperatures are extremely high like they were in Baltimore in 2011 (108 degrees) a fan will not be enough.  Try taking a cool shower or bath or go to an air-conditioned place. Keep temperatures cooler in your home by not using the stove, oven or other heat-generating appliances.


Work together to stay healthy during heat waves

Watch out for those you love.  Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or pass out.  If you are older than age 65 and live alone, have a friend or relative call to check on you a couple times a day. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Never Leave Children in Cars – no matter the temperature

Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. With the windows cracked open, interior temperatures inside the car can rise almost 20 degrees within minutes.

Children who are left unattended in parked cars are at greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death. When traveling with children, remember to check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Last Few Common Sense Rules

  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals—they add heat to your body.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and replace salts and minerals in your body.
  • Dress in cool, loose clothing and shade your head and face with a hat or an umbrella.
  • Stay out of the sun during mid-day hours
  • NEVER leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.



While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Avoid Contact with Ticks

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Wear protective Clothing
  • Examine your animals for Ticsticks on dogs 2
  • Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin
  • Use repellents that contain 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on the exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours.

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body


Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas.

Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

How to remove a tick


  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Pesticide Safety Tips

The most effective way to reduce risks posed by pesticides is to use non-chemical control methods to reduce or eliminate pest problems. Around the home, such measures include removing sources of food and water (such as leaky pipes) and destroying pest shelters and breeding sites (such as litter and plant debris).

If you decide you must use pesticides, always read the label first and follow the directions to the letter, including all precautions and restrictions.

Don’t use products for pests that are not indicated on the label and don’t use more pesticide than directed by the label.

Use protective measures when handling pesticides as directed by the label, such as wearing impermeable gloves, long pants, and long-sleeve shirts.

Change clothes and wash your hands immediately after applying pesticides.

Before applying a pesticide (indoors or outdoors), remove children, their toys, and pets from the area and keep them away until the pesticide has dried or as recommended by the label.

Don’t spray outdoors on windy or rainy days.

Remove or cover food during indoor applications.

If using a commercial applicator or lawn care service, ask for information about potential risks and safety precautions to take.

Don’t buy more pesticides than you will need.

Keep the telephone number of your area Poison Control Center near your telephone: 1-800-222-1222.

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