Lawnmowers, Ponds and Toxic Plants: Childproofing Your Backyard for Summer

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There are unique hazards for children in a warm, sun-filled backyard. Observe these tips for a safe, happy summer. Summer. Warmth, sunshine, swimming pools and beaches; backyard barbecues and long memorable days outside. But along with the fun, summer also brings hazards to your backyard that increase the risk to children. Here's how to mitigate those risks and enjoy the lighter side of the sunny season:

Lawnmowers Are Responsible For Thousands of Accidents

Lawnmowers are involved in thousands of accidents every year. In 2007, more than 200,000 people were treated for injuries related to lawn mowers. Store mowers, fuel and oil behind lock and key; don't allow children to be in the yard while you're mowing. If your teens are sharing mower duty, ensure they are wearing safety goggles and ear protection and supervise them.

Even Small Ponds Pose a Risk

Shallow ponds can often inspire a false sense of security because they don't seem deep enough to be a hazard. Remember, a pond poses a risk in just two inches of water. If there is a pond on your property, it needs to be fenced or enclosed.

Toxic Plants Are Prevalent, But Easy to Identify

Backyard plants are a leading cause of poisoning in children under five. Watch out for the following plants in your backyard: foxglove (digitalis), wisteria, hydrangea, lily of the valley, oleander, azalea and narcissus. Additionally, call your local poison center for a list of toxic plants commonly found in your area. Fence off or remove any hazardous plants you find in your yard.

Forgo Spring-Less Trampolines

Trampolines are another trouble spot for kids: 98,000 kids faced trampoline-related injuries in 2009, the last year data was available. If you decide to have one, ensure it is the spring-less kind with safety netting. Set clear rules for its use. The majority of trampoline injuries involve kids colliding while jumping. Establish a one-at-a-time to limit risk.

Stinging Insects: Watch Out For Allergies

Most bug stings are mild. The real danger lies in allergic reactions, which can be severe. Note any allergies of your family or your children's friends. Keep insects away from your children by avoiding sweet-smelling products and brightly colored clothing. Consider foregoing a flower garden, which will attract bees and other stinging insects. Always apply insect repellents on children before they play outdoors.

Appropriate Pool Fences and Gating

Enclose all backyard pools with fences at least 4 feet tall and install a child-proof gate. Always supervise your children while they are playing in or around pools. If a pool cover is installed, be sure it is either fully deployed and secured or completely removed from the water. A child can easily swim underneath a half-deployed cover and become trapped.

Decks: Check Railings and Slats

Check any and all spaces between railings or slats. Use safety netting if the gaps are narrow enough to trap a limb. Use child-proof gates at the tops and bottoms of any deck stairs.

Barbecues and Grills: Keep Equipment Away From Kids

Keep all barbecue equipment — grill, gas bottle, utensils, lighter fluid etc. — locked away when not in use. Never leave a grill unattended when in use. As a parent, you well know the world presents many obstacles to your children, but not all are worth worrying about. The most important takeaway is to be with your children when they're playing outdoors.

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