Backyard Myth Busters
Having Enjoyable Safe Summer Celebration and Gatherings
Welcome to the summer season! We are just as excited as you are to put the stocking caps, mittens, and boots away and bring out the grill aprons, bathing suits, and bike helmets. Summer is a wonderful time full of many outdoor celebrations and gatherings, often in your backyard.
We’ve assembled some backyard myths – things your grandma told you that just aren’t true when it comes to summer safety. While we all love Grandma, let’s be honest, she’s not always right about everything. We want you safe and healthy this summer season, so we are busting some of these backyard myths.
Here are 10 things your grandma might have told you that just aren’t true:
1. “The potato salad is fine”
The potato salad, full of mayonnaise, is not just fine out on the picnic table, in the sun, all afternoon long. Bacteria grows rapidly. To keep bacteria growth at bay, you need to keep hot food hot, and cold food cold. Put that potato salad in a cooler or ice bath. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly and discard any food that has been sitting out too long.
2. “A little bug bite never hurt anyone”
Oh, but those bugs carry some nasty diseases like West Nile, EEE, or Lyme disease. You should Fight the Bite this summer and take some simple prevention steps to keep the bugs away from your loved ones. Get rid of standing water in your yard, use insect repellent, and keep your grass mowed.
3. “You need a little color”
Tanning, getting a sunburn, or even a little sun-kissed is not good for you. Period. When UV rays hit your exposed skin, it causes damage. There is no such thing as a good tan or base tan. It all greatly increases your risk of premature aging and skin cancer. Put on broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters out both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15 or higher. Use sunglasses, hats, and extra layers of clothing when possible, and take advantage of nature’s protection: shade.
4. “You have to wait 30 minutes after eating to go swimming or you’ll get a cramp”
There’s no scientific basis to this old wives’ tale, but we all heard it growing up. Our suspicion is that Grandma may have just wanted a break from the chaos to watch her stories. That being said, you should make sure to never swim alone just in case a cramp does occur. If you are supervising children swimming, provide close and constant attention, even with a lifeguard is present, no matter how well they can swim or how shallow the water. Put down the cell phone and watch them closely – an emergency can happen quickly and you’ll need to respond quickly.
5. “If you swallow watermelon seeds, a watermelon will grow in your stomach”
If you swallow watermelon seeds whole, not much happens. They move through your digestive tract without being digested. Don’t let them keep you from enjoying one of summer’s awesome, healthy treats! Watermelon contains about 15% of your daily vitamin C, along with a wealth of other vitamins and minerals your body needs such as vitamins A and B6.
6. “Those kids are just fine outside by themselves”
In Michigan, there are no laws that limit children’s ability to play outside by themselves, only guidelines suggesting kids under age 11 shouldn’t be left home alone, and those under 6 years old should not be left alone in a car.
That being said, you should keep them within eyesight of your home and check on them frequently. If they are in your backyard, make sure your home playground equipment is anchored securely. Consider installing a child safety fence around grills or firepits. If you have a pool, it should have a four-sided fence at least four feet tall, with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Provide constant supervision when children are swimming.
With other children, feel free to let them ride their bike (with helmets!) or visit our local parks, but set up times that they need to check in with you throughout their play time outside. Make sure they know their address and phone number and who they can call in an emergency.
7. “Stop complaining, you’re fine”
It can get hot outside in the summer, especially when you are running around and having the time of your life. Heat stroke in children can occur without proper hydration or rest. Let them come in out of the heat and enjoy some shade. Let them drink plenty of water in their own water bottles, out of a glass inside, or even out of the garden hose!
8. “Pour some gas on it”
If you can’t get the grill lit or your fire started in your fire pit, please do not add gas to it! Try a different lighter or change out your wood for something dryer. Always operate grills and fire pits outdoors – never in enclosed areas, and keep at least ten feet away from your home or any other structures. Never leave open flames unattended, and don’t let your children or pets run and play near open flames. To stay extra safe, keep a fire extinguisher, garden hose, or bucket filled with water nearby.
9. “It’s just a little rain”
While being outside during a light drizzle is okay, stay tuned to changing weather and weather-related threats. Whether you utilize a weather app on your phone or just the local radio stations, a light drizzle can turn into a dangerous weather situation very quickly. Sign up for Lenawee Alerts to get local notifications on your phone.
Thunderstorms are dangerous because they can produce strong winds, lightning, tornados, hail, and flooding. Having a plan and supplies in place for you and your family before a storm happens will make it easier. Get inside before the storm hits, know what to do if the power gets out, and stay safe!
10. “Leaves of three, let it be”
While this is true of poison ivy, this is not true of poison sumac or poison oak, and it should really be ‘leaflets of three, let it be’ for poison ivy. You can see how this can confuse someone really fast. Bottom line: learn how to recognize ALL the poisonous plants in your area, and understand how they appear in different forms and in different locations. Wear protective clothing and gloves when working outside. Wash your hands, clothing, and tools thoroughly after working outside, just in case you may have gotten some of that oil on you.