State public health officials on Thursday released a raft of summer safety recommendations for preventing tick and mosquito bites, as well as precautions to take in the water and in cars.
The tips came in a detailed statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, or DPH.
Regarding ticks, officials said the “the single most important thing” residents can do is check themselves for the blood-sucking insects once a day.
Other tick safety tactics include using repellents that contain DEET on exposed skin and those that contain the insecticide permethrin on clothes; staying on main pathways when walking or hiking to avoid brushing against tall grass and bushes; and wearing long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks when the weather permits, according to the statement.
“Ticks can make you sick when they bite,” the statement said. “They are most commonly found in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. Ticks only attach when you come into direct contact with them — they cannot jump or fly.”
Dogs can have problems too, according to the statement.
“Because dogs and horses are particularly susceptible, talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your animals from tick-borne disease,” the release said.
On the mosquito front, officials advise residents to take steps including draining standing water in and around the house or yard to prevent breeding; repairing window and door screens to keep mosquitos out; using repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient; and wearing clothes that will reduce exposed skin, again weather permitting, according to the statement.
“The 2019 and 2020 mosquito seasons were active for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Massachusetts,” the release said. “This mosquito-borne illness appears generally in 2- to 3-year cycles, traditionally peaking during August. The presence of EEE last year, a relatively mild winter, and historical patterns suggest an active season this year.”
In addition, DPH said drowning is “a leading cause of death among young children,” both nationally and statewide, and the agency said residents can take several steps to protect kids.
Those steps, the statement said, include supervising children in and around water at all times; keeping an adult within arm’s length of infants and toddlers whenever they’re in the water, including in the bathtub; completely separating the house and play area of the yard from the pool area with a fence; installing automatic door locks or alarms; removing floats, balls, and other toys from pools after use so kids aren’t tempted to reach for them; keeping rescue equipment, such as as shepherd’s hooks or life preservers, and phones near pools; using properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for kids who cannot swim; and refraining from using toys like water-wings or noodles in place of life preservers.
“These are not designed to keep swimmers safe,” the statement said, referring to wings and noodles.
Officials released multiple recommendations for public swimming areas as well.
Those recommendations include choosing swimming sites with lifeguards whenever possible; swimming only in designated swimming areas; always swimming with a buddy; and looking for signage at beaches, according to the statement.
Regarding signage, the statement said DPH “collects beach water quality data and notifies the public about bacteria levels to minimize swimming-associated illness and injury.”
The statement touched on window safety too, noting that falls are the leading cause of injury to children and that window falls involving youngsters are “especially serious.”
Such falls are preventable, the statement said, but screens aren’t “strong enough to protect children” from falling through windows.
To prevent such falls, officials said, residents should keep furniture and any other items children can crawl on away from windows. They should also open windows from the top, as opposed to the bottom, whenever possible and lock unopened doors and windows, the statement said.
And, DPH said, residents should ensure children are always supervised and install quick-release window guards available at most hardware stores.
The agency also offered detailed recommendations on car safety.
“The inside of a vehicle can be a very dangerous place for children left inside,” the statement said. “In the summer months in New England, the temperature in a closed car can rise quickly and the vehicle can become a deadly place for a child, left even for just a moment.”
The statement said residents should never leave children alone in a parked vehicle, even when they’re asleep or restrained, and even if the windows are open. Drivers should check inside the vehicle - front and back - before locking doors and walking away, officials said.
If a child’s missing, the statement said, people should check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
“Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing your purse or briefcase in the back seat so you will check the back seat when you leave the vehicle,” the statement said. “Always lock your car and keep the keys out of children’s reach.”
The statement said people should make sure there’s adequate supervision when kids are playing near parked vehicles.
“If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police,” the statement said. “If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible and call 911 immediately.”
The agency also reminded residents that kids 12 and under should ride in the back seat, with proper restraints, even during quick errands.
“Infants and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer,” the statement said. “At a minimum, children should ride rear-facing until they are at least one year old and weigh at least 20 pounds.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.