By Michael Sukut 
BELLEVILLE – The warmer weather can be exciting and motivate people to go outside, but there are many safety risks that not all may be aware of.
Loyalist College  held a recent seminar about staying safe while enjoying the outdoors, as part of Wellness Wednesday activities. Lisa Lynn, the spokesperson at the conference, said that this is a part of staff engagement. The monthly sessions focus on educating about wellness and safety-related issues.
Here is what should be looked out for this warm-weather season.
- Plants may be pretty to look at, but some can actually be really dangerous. Contact with poison ivy, poison oak and sumac  can leave a blistering rash that can be extremely irritating and itchy. Itching too much can cut the skin, and leave people prone to infection.
- The three plants listed above grow in wooded and marshy areas. They contain an oily sap named Urushiol that can cause the rash. The rash may not show up instantly. It can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to form.
- Burning the plants is not advised either. The smoke can be toxic and irritate the eyes, nose and lungs. See a doctor immediately if this happens to you.
- Another plant that can cause harm is the giant hogweed . The plant can grow up to 4.5 metres high, and it is an invasive species to North America brought over from China. The sap makes people sensitive to ultraviolet light, and can cause potentially permanent burns, blisters or scars. It also could damage vision.
- Giant hogweed is vulnerable to herbicides, so call a professional. Put the plant into a dark bag, leave it in sunlight for a week, then dispose. If there are any seeds left behind, they can germinate for up to 15 years after the parent plant is killed.
- Wild parsnip  is another invasive plant to Ontario. It can grow to 1.5 metres high. It looks like Queen Anne’s lace, but has yellow flowers instead of white. It is similar to giant hogweed in terms of light sensitivity, the rash, and disposal method.
- When trying to get rid of the plants, it is advised to wear-long sleeved shirts and long-leg pants, with the legs tucked into shoes or boots. Remove the plant by digging it up entirely and disposing of it.
- If you feel you have made contact with the plant, immediately wash the affected area with lukewarm water and soap, or rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes. You should also keep the exposed area cool, dry and clean and wash all clothes and tools that were used in the removal process.
- Health hazards such as heat exhaustion and stroke can really sneak up on you when doing strenuous work in hot weather. If you are doing a job such as building a deck or a garden in extreme heat, be aware of the risks of heat stroke.
- Heat exhaustion  is less severe. Symptoms include faintness or dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps and a rapid but weak pulse. Get to a cool place and drink water if you feel this.
- Heat stroke  is more severe, and can lead to a throbbing headache, a rapid, strong pulse, and loss of consciousness. Body temperature can exceed 40 C, and your body will not produce sweat. Call 911 right away and try to cool down the person as best as you can until help arrives.
Ticks and Lyme disease:
- Eastern Ontario, including the Hastings and Prince Edward County region, is a hotbed for ticks , which may carry Lyme disease . The only way to get a tick is if you brush by it from grass or shrubs. It can not jump or fly onto you. Ticks will dive head-first into the skin when they latch on to a human or animal.
- The most common area to find ticks is in and around hairlines, the ear area, under the arms, the belly button, between the legs and behind the knees.
- If you have a tick, the best way to remove it is to use fine-tipped tweezers, or a tick key. Grip it as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out without twisting, crushing or puncturing. After removal, wash the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Put clothing in the dryer for an hour on high heat to kill any ticks that may be on it. Seek medical attention if you do not feel you can safely do it yourself.
- Lyme disease can be carried from ticks. Symptoms include fatigue, headache, rash, joint pain, muscle aches and sleep issues. The longer a tick is left in, the higher the odds of contracting Lyme disease.
- To prevent ticks, keep all areas of your body clothed with minimal exposed skin. Wear light-coloured clothing so it is easier to spot ticks. Insect repellant containing DEET or Picaridin is effective. Check the whole body for ticks – including your pets, as they can be bitten as well.
Mosquitoes and West Nile
- There is nothing more annoying in the summer than trying to swat away buzzing mosquitoes. They are most prevalent in low-light hours such as dawn or dusk, and are usually attracted to any sort of standing water. Drain any puddles of water nearby that could attract mosquitoes. Dress in long sleeves and pants and wear repellant containing DEET. Eucalyptus can also be effective.
- Mosquitoes could carry a disease named West Nile . It is most prevalent from April to October. About 80 per cent of affected people will never develop symptoms. The symptoms include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, joint pain and rash. It can be diagnosed by a blood test. In extreme cases, West Nile can cause meningitis or encephalitis.
- A Canadian hotspot for West Nile is in Ontario and Quebec, with 289 cases in the two provinces combined last year. This was 78.7 per cent of all cases in Canada.
Gardening and lawn-care safety
- Doing home and yard improvement work during the summer months is extremely common, and the work associated can be enjoyable and therapeutic for some, but not everyone does it safely.
- Similar to sports, doing heavy work requires body mechanics, which can lead to serious injury if things go wrong. Treat yourself like an athlete when doing these activities. Warming up and stretching, as well as taking breaks and drinking water, are extremely important.
- When lifting heavy objects such as rocks, bags of soil or landscape stone, lift from the knees rather than at the waist. Use a wheelbarrow if it is too heavy, and make sure the wheel has enough air in it. When kneeling or squatting, change positions regularly.
- When mowing the lawn, check the grass for objects such as sticks, dog feces and tiny plastic objects. These can destroy the lawn mower if caught in the blades, and fling things quite a distance, which can break windows or cause serious injuries.
- It is important to inspect the lawn mower before the first cut of the season to make sure it is functioning properly. De-energize electrical equipment before unplugging to reduce the risk of electric shock.
- Allergies to bees and certain plants can be an issue. Make sure you have the proper medication.