Sort and Clean Your Storage Spaces Safely this Summer

first_imgFacebook3Tweet0Pin0Submitted by Gabby Byrne for Thurston County Public HealthYou know when you’ve got it—that “cleaning bug” that comes along when the weather gets warm, and the breezes come in off the Puget Sound. One look at the crowded closet, overflowing garage, and high stacks in the outbuildings tells you it’s time to tackle your storage spaces. But there may be a few safety issues you haven’t considered.Heatstroke can happen whether the sun is shining or not. Put simply, heatstroke is when your body overheats, and it can be very serious or even life threatening. Working hard in a stuffy location, without a lot of airflow can increase the likelihood of heatstroke. A headache, confusion, sweating and nausea are all common symptoms. The most important thing to do if you, or someone you’re with, may be suffering from heatstroke is to help them cool down. Get into the shade, cool down in water (from a hose or shower), drink water, and if it gets worse, or doesn’t improve quickly, call a doctor. Know your tolerance for heat, and take it slow.Mold and Mildew growing on the underside of a roof. These spots can hide spiders and other pests.Wasps and spiders easily take up residence in the dusty boxes and musty rafters of our storage spaces. More often than not, they are compelling, and sometimes yell-inducing, discoveries. Occasionally, however, they can be a real health risk. Thurston County, like most places, has a variety of wasps, yellow jackets and hornets. If you have an allergy to these beasties, plan carefully before tackling a space they might call home. Have access to a phone, and to emergency medication. If you encounter wasps, leave the area as quickly as possible, without running or thrashing. The State Department of Health offers good advice on what to do if you think you’ve got wasps.Thurston County has relatively few spiders that can cause harm. One that can, however, is the black widow. While uncommon, black widows, hiding in woodpiles, meter boxes, or under eaves, can cause a painful, and sometimes dangerous bite. Other spiders, like the yellow sac and hobo spider (which spins a funnel shaped web) though also uncommon, can cause painful bites that should be seen by a doctor. The hobo spider is considered one of many “aggressive house spiders,” but is the only one whose bite may impact a person’s health. Despite their alarming size, the giant house spider is basically harmless, as are wolf spiders that tend to come into houses in the fall. You’ll be relieved to hear that Brown Recluse spiders don’t occur in western Washington.Ticks Identification of ticks can be difficult, and determining the risks for tick-borne disease is based on available data, which can be patchy. There are ticks in western Washington, and some of them can carry serious disease. Ticks tend to prefer wooded, brushy areas, or high grasses. Reduce rodents (which can harbor ticks) and if you’re working in tick habitat, take precautions. If you find one on yourself, or on a pet, you can send it to the State Department of Health for identification.Rodents can be a nuisance, and can carry disease. Bites, contamination, and even breathing germs stirred into the air from cleaning up droppings, can make people sick. Deer mice are the carriers of hantavirus—a rare, but potentially fatal disease. If you plan to clean up an area that you suspect has rodents in it, prepare to do it safely.Tetanus germs live in soil, and can infect a person through a puncture wound or scrape. Sometimes called Lockjaw, tetanus is a serious disease which can lead to death. Luckily, it’s easy to prevent. While children are routinely given a tetanus vaccine (most commonly in conjunction with their diphtheria and whooping cough vaccine), adults should get a tetanus vaccine every ten years. The CDC offers a good overview of this rare, but serious, disease.Paints, Poisons, and Pesticides can also impact your health. If you plan to clean a space where these items are stored, consider safely recycling them. If you’re not sure where to take an item, or whether it can be recycled, use the Thurston County web site data base— and use the search bar to help you make look up your item and determine the best way to dispose of it. Lastly, consider not using chemicals around the home and yard at all! There are many other ways to approach plant and insect pests. Grow Smart Grow Safe is a great resource to learn more about your options.Summer is a great time for those long-put off cleaning projects. Whether you’re diving into the basement, or scouring your outbuildings, take the time to do it well and protect your health.last_img read more