Ah, fall. It’s such a wonderful season, with turning leaves, cool days and warm nights by the fire. But it’s also a season that comes with its own unique hazards. Here are seven tips that can help you and your family stay out of the ER this autumn.
1. Follow the latest COVID-19 safety guidelines
More than a year after COVID-19 upended our world, it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. With the Delta variant and other infectious variants emerging, these doctor-recommended tips can continue to help keep you and your family safe and healthy:
- Get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is the single most important and effective prevention treatment for COVID-19. It will reduce your risk of getting sick and also help protect those you love. As booster shots become more readily available, discuss with your doctor whether obtaining one is right for you and your loved ones.
- Continue social distancing. People are still spreading COVID-19, so keep practicing social distancing (six feet or more).
- Wear a well-fitting mask when going out. Many people who carry the virus have mild symptoms or are not yet showing symptoms, which is why it’s best to wear a mask in public.
- Wash your hands. Washing hands often (before preparing or eating food, or after using the restroom, touching shared objects or surfaces, or contact with other people) for 20 seconds has shown to be very effective.
- Build your immunity. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, drink enough water and other hydrating beverages, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
- Seek care if you think you have COVID-19. Using virtual care will allow you to seek care early on from the comfort of your home.
2. Get your flu shot
While the 2020 flu season was on the mild side—likely due to COVID-19 precautions and stay-at-home orders—experts say now that some of those precautions are loosening, there could be an increase in the flu this year.1 The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated—and the sooner the better.
If you’re a caregiver for a person 65 or older, it’s especially important that they also get a flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
3. Don’t overuse antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the U.S. and throughout the world, according to the CDC.
Many people don’t realize that antibiotics aren’t a cure-all for viral infections like the flu, colds and bronchitis. Rather, they’re prescribed for bacterial infections such as strep throat and urinary tract infections.
Using an antibiotic to treat a virus isn’t only ineffective, it can be harmful by increasing your risk of getting a future antibiotic-resistant infection. Antibiotics can also cause adverse effects in children under 18.
If you do get sick this fall, you can speak with a Teladoc doctor 24/7 who can diagnose and properly treat your illness.
4. Use caution when carving pumpkins
While making jack-o’-lanterns can be a fun family activity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that younger children not do the actual pumpkin carving. So that kids don’t feel left out, ask them to draw the design with a marker on the pumpkin instead.
Additional recommendations include using specialty pumpkin-carving tools, and carving the pumpkin in a clean, dry and well-lit area.
5. Trick-or-treat safely
If trick-or-treating is one of your family activities, the AAP and CDC both offer a thorough list of safety tips for you and your kids, including ideas for safe costumes, what to bring during your walk, as well as pedestrian and candy safety.
6. Prep your chimney for those cold nights
Before you light the fire in your wood-burning fireplace, make sure your chimney is clean and in good repair. If you’re not sure if your chimney is good to go, hire a chimney sweep to help assess and make any improvements needed.
And if you think you’re off the hook because you own a gas-burning fireplace, think again! According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, appliances that are powered by gas, like a furnace or hot water heater, can deposit corrosive material into your chimney—substances that can be dangerous. To help alleviate the problem, the group recommends hiring a chimney sweep to perform an inspection and help with any necessary cleaning.
This Old House offers additional fireplace safety tips here.
7. Rake leaves safely
Raking not only helps keep your yard tidy—it can also be a great form of exercise.
Because raking is an aerobic activity, do some light stretching or take a short walk beforehand to warm up your muscles. You may also want to dress in layers so you can remove clothing as needed if you begin to overheat. Be sure to stand up straight when raking and bend at the knees to prevent back injuries.
Teladoc wishes you good health this fall, but if you do get sick, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our U.S. board-certified doctors are available by phone or video 24/7 to diagnose and treat many common illnesses.
Updated October 22, 2021