• Health & Wellness

    Think safety in fall as weather changes

Woman wearing gloves cleaning out a roof gutter

Nights are getting cooler, and the trees are starting to change colors as autumn begins. And routines are changing because kids are back to school, the days are shorter and winter planning is underway.

Think safety as you enjoy the cooler temperatures and vibrant colors:

Safely warm up by the fire.

Inspect your fireplace before lighting the first fire. One of the simple joys of autumn is warming up in front of a fireplace.

If you have a fireplace in your home, be sure to have it cleaned and inspected before lighting your first fire of the season. A buildup of soot and creosote can cause a chimney fire and a backup of dangerous carbon monoxide gas into your home. Keep the area around the fireplace clear and remove any hanging decorations on your mantle. Most importantly, keep a fire extinguisher nearby at all times.

Never leave burning candles unattended.

While glowing candles make any environment feel cozier, remember to keep burning candles away from anything that could burn, such as curtains, bedding or books. Also, always extinguish a candle before going to bed or leaving the house. Never leave children or pets alone with a burning candle.

Watch for new roadway hazards.

Going back to school brings traffic changes. School buses, students on bicycles and teen drivers are out on the roads.

Slow down and take extra care to look for children in school zones, near playgrounds and residential areas. Also, never pass a bus with flashing red lights on, or another vehicle stopped for a pedestrian.

Be alert for wildlife on roadways.

Wildlife is on the move in the fall, so watch carefully for deer, turkeys and other critters crossing the road in front of your vehicle. They are most active from dusk through dawn.

Remember that some animals — deer in particular — frequently travel in groups. If you see one crossing, more are bound to follow.

Share the road with harvesting equipment.

In rural areas, fall brings the harvest season with large farming equipment on the roads. Be alert for slow-moving vehicles, and give them plenty of space. This provides better visibility to you and the other driver. Remember that they may turn unexpectedly into fields or driveways. Just because you can see the equipment does not mean the other driver can see you.

Get the yard ready for winter.

You've enjoyed your beautiful lawn and garden all summer, but now is the time to prep it for a cold winter. Leaf blowers can be loud and blow more than just leaves, so wear eye and hearing protection to keep you safe from flying debris and preserve your hearing from the dangerous effects of repeated exposure to loud noises.

Use ladders safely.

Falling is one of the most common reasons for emergency department trips. If you plan to clean out your gutters, work as a team when using the ladder. Ladders can buckle or slip, so have someone else hold the ladder as you climb up and down.

Keep your body weight-centered over the ladder, and don't reach too far. It is better to move the ladder a few more times than fall.

Get your flu shot.

Protect yourself from influenza with a flu shot. The viruses found in the influenza vaccine are inactive, so you cannot get the flu from the vaccine.

After getting vaccinated, it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies to protect against influenza. That's why getting vaccinated early in the fall is recommended.

The vaccine usually is available in early to mid-fall.

Alexandro Vasquez is a nurse practitioner in the Emergency Department in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.