Every new season brings its own rewards — and its own hidden dangers.
For instance, it’s important to practice air-conditioning safety in the summer, and to be very careful about shoveling snow in the winter, which can trigger heart attacks.
This fall, it’s time to get the word out about the hidden dangers of one of autumn’s most popular activities: jumping in leaf piles.
Taking a cannonball-style plunge into a big heap of crunchy fallen leaves is a tried-and-true fall tradition, especially with kiddos and with pups, and we all agree that playing in the leaves can be great fun.
Still, it’s just as important to exercise caution with autumn leaf piles as it is with summer swimming or winter snow fort-building.
This activity, a common reward for finally raking up the leaves in the first place, seems totally innocuous, but it’s important to remember that you never know what could be hiding inside those temptingly crunchy leaf piles.
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Kids (and even some grown-ups) are well-known for their love of catapulting straight into the closest pile of crunchy fall leaves.
But next time you see the little one in your life preparing for the launch, stop and ask a few important questions first.
Leaf piles aren’t just fun for humans, they’re also cozy places for plenty of creepy-crawlies and wildlife to hunker down.
Depending on where you make your home, there could be any number of creatures hiding in your leaves, most of whom might be best left undisturbed.
Ticks, for example, are no one’s idea of a good time, and might be hiding out in the leaves, just waiting for the opportunity to latch on.
Meanwhile, any number of other creatures could also be sharing the space.
Garter snakes, though nonpoisonous, have plenty of bite and like to spend their time in damp, concealed places — making a leaf pile an ideal place to hang out.
More lethal snakes can also be found in leaf litter, and if you live in an area with poisonous snakes like rattlers or moccasins, you’ll want to be extra cautious about throwing yourself into the leaves.
If you live in an area with poisonous snakes, it might be wise to make plenty of noise near the pile and try skimming a stick through the leaves to check for any surprise guests.
The same policy holds true for other creepy-crawlies.
Spiders will often make their homes in piles of leaves, and it’s often better to leave these guys alone if at all possible.
A common garden spider often has a painful and intensely itchy bite, and some native North American species, including black widows and brown recluses, can have much more lethal consequences.
All of that adds up to one major theme: approach leaf-jumping season with plenty of caution.
It’s not that we can’t all enjoy jumping in leaves just as much as in autumns past, but there are a few key steps we should all put into place to make sure we all have a safe fall!
The most important tip is to avoid leaf piles that have been sitting out for more than an hour or two. A pile that’s been out overnight or longer is an appealing place to set up camp if you’re a critter that doesn’t want to be disturbed.
By the same token, it’s unlikely that anyone unpleasant will move right into a brand-new leaf pile, so anything freshly raked should be fair game.
It’s also important to stir the pile once or twice with a long branch, to be sure there’s nobody inside.
Kids should wear long pants and sleeves, and should ideally tuck their pant legs into their socks for leaf-jumping activities to keep the ticks off.
When little leaf-jumpers emerge, it’s a good idea to give them a once-over for ticks too, since a tick usually has to be attached for at least 12 hours to transmit disease.
But most important of all? Just enjoy fall and all of its beauty!
If you agree with these simple leaf-pile safety tips, make sure to SHARE with friends and family!