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Fall back

Keep safety in mind this season

Photo: kate_sept2004/iStockphoto

For some people, fall means road trips to view spectacular foliage and pick apples. For others, it’s back-to-school time. Before indulging in all the good things autumn has to offer (apple cider donuts!), take some time to review a few tips on staying injury-free throughout the season.

Leaves fall – you shouldn’t

One of the surest signs of autumn is falling leaves. It also means it’s time for the annual (and arduous) chore of gathering and disposing of them.

Dr. Brad Uren is an emergency room physician at the University of Michigan Hospital and assistant professor at the school. Uren said to first ask yourself if you want to go through the strain of raking leaves – as well as related chores such as climbing a ladder to clear out leaves from the gutters. Would it be better to pay a professional to complete the job?

Hiring a pro might save you from one of the most common ailments Uren sees during the fall season – back pain in homeowners who don’t take into account the physical stress that comes from hours of yardwork. If you’re determined to tackle the leaves yourself, Uren said alternative cleanup methods, such as using a leaf blower to avoid bending at awkward angles or stooping, may help.

Make sure your tools and equipment are in good working condition. Uren said he has treated people who cut themselves trying to pull off leaves from old rakes that have jagged edges. He recommends wearing gloves to protect your hands and making sure your footwear is appropriate to prevent slips and falls.

Will you be using a ladder to clean your gutters or decorate for upcoming holidays? Take a moment to read – and heed – the instructions on the ladder. Uren said injuries often occur when people step higher than the recommended level or don’t ensure the base of the ladder is level and secure.

’Tis the season for sneezing

It’s not only leaves that can cause problems in the fall. Pollen from weeds – most notably ragweed – can aggravate allergies, said Sanaz Eftekhari, director of corporate affairs and spokesperson with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The AAFA recommends pinning down your precise allergy or allergies with help from a physician.

Other suggestions from the foundation:

  • Because pollen is microscopic and can stick to practically everything, wash yourself as often as possible and shower each night to remove any grains you might have brought into the house.
  • Wear sunglasses or a hat when outdoors to help keep pollen out of your face and hair.
  • Make a habit of taking your shoes off when you come into the house.
  • If you’ve been outside, change your clothing before going into your bedroom.
  • Wipe off any pets that have been outdoors.
  • If you’re at home on a high-pollen day, keep the windows closed and use the air conditioner, preferably one with a HEPA filter.

Stay safe on the road

Fall is the perfect time for road trips to view the beauty of the changing colors, but nature can present hazards in both plant and animal form.

Wet leaves can prove especially dangerous for drivers, said Michael Calkins, manager of technical services for road safety organization AAA.

Calkins says people should drive a little slower during the fall season, especially if the route being taken is more rural.

“[Wet leaves] are very hazardous,” Calkins said. “Not quite up to the level of ice, but wet leaves are extremely slippery.”

Also, as autumn days become shorter, it begins to get darker outside earlier. That’s when you’re more likely to encounter sun glare behind the wheel. Calkins recommends you “see and be seen” by switching on your headlights sooner rather than later.

“Even if it doesn’t help you see, it helps other people see you, particularly someone who may be driving into the sun,” he said.

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