OHSU Doernbecher, Oregon Poison Center provide summer safety tips

06/19/15  Portland, Ore.

The arrival of summer brings many fun opportunities to be outside with family and friends, play in the water and take part in various seasonal activities. However, it is important to remember that these favored months can bring an increase in the incidence of poisonings and other accidents for our children and loved ones, especially when there is a change in the household routine, such as a weekend outing, family vacation or visitors in your home.

The OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center, the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU, and the OHSU Casey Eye Institute’s Elks Children’s Eye Clinic suggest following these helpful summer safety tips:

Avoid sunburn and heat stroke

  • Wear sunscreen, hats, sunglasses with UV protection and loose-fitting, lightweight clothes that breathe.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Use a product with an SPF of 30 or more. Adults and children should drink plenty of water, even if they’re not thirsty.
  • Avoid overexertion on hot days; take frequent breaks to rest and cool down; if possible, exercise or play in shady areas.
  • Keep children out of the sun during midday when the sun’s rays are the strongest; keep infants younger than six months in the shade at all times.
  • Consult a physician if symptoms of dehydration or heat exhaustion occur, including blistering burns, severe headache, cool clammy skin or muscle cramps and dizziness.

Ensure window safety

  • Lock windows when they are closed.
  • Never let your child open windows by themselves.
  • Prevent windows from opening more than four inches by using window guards. These are available online, or at the OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center.
  • Don’t place furniture near windows.
  • Screens don’t prevent falls. They are not strong enough to support even young children.

Maximize fun and keep your family safe in the water

  • Supply a properly fitted personal flotation device for each boat passenger. The OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center provides more information on life jackets.
  • Always carefully supervise children in and around water.
  • Keep chemicals out of kids’ eyes. Chemical irritation can result from extended exposure to swimming chemicals and sunscreen.
  • Don’t swim during a storm or when there is lightning.
  • Check the depth of the water before jumping; don’t jump into water that is less than nine feet deep. Be aware of currents and waves.
  • Never mix boating or other water sports with alcohol.
  • Visit www.boatoregon.com for safety information on boating and other water activities, such as jet skiing.

Handle fireworks with caution

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks are related to more than 11,400 emergency room visits each year. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of fireworks at home. Enjoy safe and professional local displays instead.

  • Never allow children to light or play with fireworks and do not leave children alone with fireworks; keep bystanders at a safe distance.
  • Read all fireworks instructions carefully.
  • Wear protective eyewear around fireworks.
  • Do not let children touch unexploded fireworks.
  • Never light fireworks in a container.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies.
  • Do not attempt to relight fireworks that have not gone off; soak them in water and throw them away.
  • Only light fireworks outside.
  • Keep flammable liquids, such as gasoline, at a safe distance.

Guarantee proper use and storage of pesticides and insect repellants

  • Use proper safety methods when storing, applying or disposing of pesticides and their containers; all pesticides are poisonous and can have serious effects on people, pets and wildlife.
  • Be sure that garden chemicals, solvents, cleaning agents and medications are stored in locked cabinets out of the reach of children.
  • DEET (at less than 5 percent) and Picaridin insect repellents are safe for your family; follow instructions on the label and supervise children when applying.

Safeguard against food poisoning

  • Carefully prepare and store all food during picnics, barbecues, camping trips, etc.; check out www.foodsafety.gov for food safety tips.
  • Consult a physician if symptoms of food poisoning occur, including vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Avoid poisonous plants and mushrooms

  • Identify poisonous indoor and outdoor plants, including berries on plants, in your family’s vicinity. You may want to remove particularly dangerous ones from your property.
  • Consider all mushrooms poisonous unless positively identified otherwise by a trained mycologist (mushroom expert).

Keep cleaning solvents away from children and pets

  • Follow label instructions on cleaning materials carefully.
  • Ensure proper ventilation when using cleaning products.
  • Do not leave any cleaning supplies within reach of children; store these types of products in locked cabinets.
  • Never store cleaning agents in soda bottles or old food containers.
  • Rinse empty containers thoroughly and recap before discarding.

Avoid exposure to products containing hydrocarbons

  • Store products with hydrocarbons in their original containers out of reach of children. These include car wash supplies (especially wheel and chrome cleaners), rust removers, antifreeze, carburetor fluid, tiki torch oil, gasoline, motor oil, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid, oil-based paints, paint thinners and turpentine. They are very dangerous if swallowed.

Wear protective eyewear

  • Wear sunglasses and never look directly into the sun. Children of all ages should wear sunglasses to protect against ultraviolet light (rated 100 percent UV or UV 400 protection). Protection needs to be present, even when cloud cover filters the bright sunlight.
  • Protect eyes during outside activities. Children should wear eye protection for outside activities such as ball sports.
  • Be cautious when doing yard and housework. Children are often observers to parents involved in mowing, chipping, shredding and other summertime garden activities. Keep the kids clear of these activities or provide protective eyewear.

Protect yourself and your children from lawn mower injuries

  • Keep children away from lawn mowers at all times, even when they are not in use; children younger than 5 should be kept indoors during mowing to prevent them from suddenly running in front of the mower. Teach your child that lawn mowers are not toys.
  • Inspect the area to be mowed; look for stones, tree branches, nails and wires – the mower can expel these objects, causing serious injury.
  • Don’t cut wet grass.
  • Perform lawn mower maintenance at the beginning of each season and before each use. Check safety features often.

Properly prevent and care for animal and insect bites and stings

  • Wear long pants and sleeves; avoid scented cosmetic products and don’t go barefoot, especially through rocky and bushy areas.
  • Be sure tetanus immunizations are current.
  • Wash any broken skin thoroughly and consult your physician.
  • Consult a physician immediately if signs of an allergic reaction occur, including rapid swelling of the bitten area as well as the face and neck, and hives or rash spreading over the body. Call 911 if someone is having difficulty breathing.


Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only public academic health and research university. As one of Oregon's largest employers with more than 14,000 employees, OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of Oregon and is a conduit for learning for more than 4,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.


The OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center is dedicated to reducing unintentional injuries in children through education and distribution of safety products. For more information, please call 503 418-5666 or visit www.ohsu.edu/childsafety for low cost safety products, educational materials or to find a car seat check-up event in your area.


The Oregon Poison Center (OPC) at OHSU provides 24-hour emergency treatment information for people experiencing a poisoning or toxic exposure. Call the poison center at 1 800-222-1222 for all poison emergencies and questions.