Stay safe playing in your backyard: Q&A with Isabel Valdez

An adult and child kicking a soccer ball around in a green, lush backyard.

If family time this summer means spending time in your backyard, you should be aware of the hidden health dangers in your Bermuda or St. Augustine grass. Isabel Valdez, PA-C and assistant professor of medicine at Baylor, shares some tips on how to be safe at home this summer.

Question: Whether I’m running errands or playing outside, should I shower or change clothes when I come in from outside?

Answer: Yes. Your skin will thank you if you shower after spending time outdoors doing activities such as cooking, gardening or exercising.  You’ll want to shower to not only remove dirt and grime that can cause acne or make you prone to skin infections but also wash off allergens or pollutants that can stick to you and affect your allergies and those of others around you.

Q: Should the kids be playing barefoot or put shoes on in the backyard?

A: It’s not the best idea to walk barefoot in the backyard because you can’t always see what lurks beneath the grass. You could accidentally step on insects like fire ants, causing an allergic reaction or even an infection. Slick surfaces cannot always be trusted and could cause someone to fall, regardless of how fast or slow one is walking.  With hot temperatures upon us, backyard surfaces could get very hot; the last thing you need is to burn the soles of your feet while walking for too long on hot surfaces. Sharp debris like broken glass or nails could be masked in the grass, causing scrapes or cuts that can lead to a foot infection. Many of these hazards can be remedied with proper lawn maintenance and thorough cleaning up after gatherings in your yard.

Q: Creepy, crawly critters lurk in our backyards. What should I do when I get a bug bite?

A: All bug bites can be worrisome, but with calm, quick action, most folks will be fine. Start by thoroughly cleaning up the area where the insect bite took place with ice-cold water and soap. Apply a cool compress to help reduce the swelling, redness and itchiness. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can also help with discomfort. Allergy medicine like cetirizine, diphenhydramine or loratadine should be taken as soon as possible to lessen the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Keep in mind that we can never predict if someone may have a severe allergic or anaphylactic reaction; take someone to the nearest emergency center if they develop severe swelling, especially around the lips, experience breathing difficulties or any other troubling symptoms.

Q: What are your top five tips for making sure kids stay safe in the backyard?


  1. Kids should never be alone by a pool, regardless of how skilled of a swimmer they are.
  2. Wear sunscreen to prevent skin damage.
  3. Use shoes with good soles to prevent falling or cutting the feet and wear comfortable, breathable clothes.
  4. Stay hydrated when outside enjoying the sun in the backyard.
  5. Having a day party? Don’t eat foods that can spoil, like egg salad or cheeses that have been sitting out too long in the heat. Instead, opt for clean, fresh sliced fruits and vegetables.

By Aaron Nieto

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