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 can come with its own unique hazards. Here are seven tips that can help you and your family stay out of the ER this autumn.

1. Get your flu shot

“The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year,” says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Because flu season can start as early as October, it’s important to get your flu shot now.

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 CDC.

2. Practice good hand washing

The CDC calls hand washing a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that can reduce the spread of diarrhea and respiratory illness, including the flu.

The organization also provides a helpful hand washing guide, which includes information regarding when and how you should wash your hands. (Note: if soap and water aren’t available, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer that’s 60 percent alcohol as an alternative.)

3. Don’t overuse antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem here in the U.S. and throughout the world, according to the CDC.

Many people don’t realize that antibiotics don’t cure viral infections like colds, bronchitis and the flu. Rather, they’re prescribed for bacterial infections. These include whooping cough, 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. They can also cause adverse effects in children under 18.

If you do get ill 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, children under 14 shouldn’t do the actual pumpkin carving, according to consumerreports.org. So kids don’t feel left out, ask them to draw the design with marker on the pumpkin instead.

Consumer Reports also recommends 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 CDC offers a thorough list of safety tips for both you and your kids. It includes ideas for safe costumes, what to bring during your walk, pedestrian tips, 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 who can help.

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 which can be dangerous. To help alleviate the problem, the group also recommends hiring a chimney sweep to do an inspection and any necessary cleaning.

This Old House has 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, the American Association of Retired People (AARP) recommends that you do light stretching or take a short walk beforehand to warm up your muscles. It also recommends dressing in layers, which can be removed if you begin to overheat. Be sure to stand up straight when raking and bend at the knees to prevent back injuries.

We wish you the best of health this fall, but if you do get ill, connect with Teladoc. Our licensed doctors can diagnose and treat many common illnesses by phone or video 24/7.*


*Teladoc membership required. Visit Teladoc.com to learn more.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. While we are continuously reviewing and updating our content, some of the information in this article may not reflect the most up-to-date scientific information. Please visit the online resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news, or reach out to Teladoc to speak with one of our board-certified physicians.