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Protect your home against mosquitoes Summer? No Sweat.

Summer? No Sweat.

A Summer Survival Guide



Emergency Preparedness

Every day millions of people are busy with their regular routines — going to work, attending school, running errands. Occasionally, though, the unexpected will happen: a tornado, a flood or other weather-related emergency changes everyone’s daily routines. These natural disasters do not have to have tragic endings, however, if people are prepared beforehand to deal with their aftermath.

Many times in the wake of a natural disaster, local officials and emergency response personnel may be overwhelmed and unable to reach people right away. So, after most disasters, a family should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days. This may mean providing for your own shelter, first aid, water and sanitation.

Being prepared for a natural disaster requires planning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recognized this when it created the Family Protection Program. The program encourages individuals and families to take action to increase their ability to cope with, or even survive, a disaster before it occurs. The program focuses on motivating people to develop a family disaster plan.

In Illinois, the Family Protection Program is promoted by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). IEMA offers many publications that can assist people in developing a family disaster plan. For more information, contact your local emergency management agency.


A tornado is a violent storm with whirling winds of up to 300 miles per hour. It appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, gray to black, that extends toward the ground from the base of a thundercloud. A tornado spins like a top and may sound like the roaring of a locomotive or airplane. These short-lived storms are the most violent of all storms and the most destructive.

A tornado watch means tornadoes may occur in or near your area. Listen to local radio and television stations for information and advice. Keep the telephone lines clear for emergency calls. Watch the sky to the south and southwest for revolving, funnel-shaped clouds. Report these immediately to your local police department, sheriff's office or weather service.

If a tornado warning is issued for your area, take shelter immediately. A warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar and may strike in your vicinity.

During a tornado, protect yourself from being struck by falling objects, injured by flying debris or blown away. The best protection is an underground shelter, cave or steel-framed building. If none of these are available, there are other places to take refuge:

  • At home, go to an underground storm cellar or basement. If your home has no basement, go to a corner of your home and take cover under a sturdy workbench, desk or table (but not underneath heavy appliances on the floor above). Or, take cover in the center part of the house, on the lowest floor, in a small room such as a closet or bathroom. Stay away from windows to avoid flying debris. Do not remain in a trailer or mobile home if a tornado is approaching; take cover in a nearby shelter or lie flat in the nearest lowland area or ditch.

  • If you are at work in an office building, go to an interior hallway on the lowest floor or to a designated shelter area.

  • If you are at school, follow the instructions of school authorities. Instructions usually involve taking shelter in interior hallways on the lowest floor and staying out of structures with wide roofs, such as auditoriums and gymnasiums.

  • If you are outside in open country, take cover by lying flat in the nearest depression, such as a ditch, culvert, excavation or ravine and cover your head with your arms.


Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural hazards. Some floods develop over a period of days, but flash floods can produce raging waters in just a few minutes. Water runs off steeper ground very rapidly, causing natural drainage systems to overflow with rushing floodwaters and a deadly cargo of rocks, mud, smashed trees and other debris.

Remember, floods may occur in very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds or low-lying ground that may appear harmless in dry weather.

Wherever you live, be aware of potential flooding hazards. If you live in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam, you should be prepared for a flood.

Know the National Weather Service terms that warn of potential flooding conditions broadcast on radio and television and through local government emergency personnel:

  • Flood forecast means rainfall is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow their banks.

  • Flood warning, or a forecast of impending floods, describes the affected river or lake, the severity of the flooding (minor, moderate or major) and when and where the flooding may begin.

  • Flash flood watch means current or expected heavy rains may cause sudden flash flooding in specified areas. Be alert to the possible emergency, which may require immediate action.

  • Flash flood warning is announced when flash flooding is occurring or expected along certain streams and designated areas.

Find out how many feet your property is above or below possible flood levels so you can determine if it may be at risk when predicted flood levels are broadcast. Careful preparation and prompt response can help ensure your safety and reduce property loss.

If flooding is likely and time permits, move essential items and furniture to the upper floors of your house. Disconnect any electrical appliances that cannot be moved, but do not touch them if you are wet or standing in water.

Standard homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flood losses, but flood insurance is available in participating communities through the federally sponsored National Flood Insurance Program. Contact a local licensed insurance broker or agent for more information. Usually there is a five-day waiting period before coverage takes effect, so do not wait until the last minute.

Your personal safety also is important. During periods of heavy rainfall when flash floods are likely, remember these safety tips:

  • Stay away from natural streambeds, gullies and other drainage channels during and after rainstorms.

  • If you live in a low-lying area, know where high ground is and how to get there as quickly as possible.

  • Stay out of flooded areas. The water may still be rising and the current could be swift.

  • Abandon stalled vehicles in flooded areas if you can do so safely.

  • If you are caught in floodwaters, keep a flashlight or other light source with you to attract help.

These tips and more are contained in "After the Flood." Copies are available from IDPH, Division of Communications, at 217-782-5750, TTY (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466.


Each year, many serious injuries result from use of power mowers, string trimmers, and electric and gasoline-powered hedge trimmers.

Injuries from power mowers most commonly result from —

  • rocks and other objects picked up and thrown by the mower,

  • riding mowers tipping over on steep slopes or inclines,

  • garden tractors or riding mowers used in reverse gear that run over bystanders, or

  • hand contact with mower blades when clearing grass from the discharge chute or adjusting the machine before the blades have fully stopped.

Most string trimmers injuries are the result of —

  • debris or objects picked up and thrown by the trimmer,

  • failure to wear appropriate protective clothing and eye and ear protection, or

  • unsafe handling of the trimmer or of fuel.

Hedge-trimmer accidents most often occur when the operator —

  • changes hand position while the trimmer is running,

  • uses a trimmer with only one handle or holds a two-handled trimmer with one hand, or

  • attempts to hold the cord away from the blade.

The following safety tips may help you avoid accidents with lawn and garden implements:

Lawn Mowers

Lawn mowers are associated with approximately 80,000 injuries annually in the United States. To avoid injury to yourself or to others, follow these simple precautions:

  • When buying a power mower, make sure it has a rear guard to protect hands and feet from blades and a downward-aimed discharge chute so debris is less likely to hit anyone nearby.

  • Before mowing, pick up or rake up litter and other objects — wires, nails, rocks, twigs and glass — from the area to be mowed. The blade of a power mower can reach a speed of 200 miles per hour and can hurl objects as far as 50 feet.

  • Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes with an enclosed toe, safety glasses, gloves, long-sleeved shirt and long pants.

  • Do not allow children or pets in the area you are mowing.

  • Before unclogging or adjusting the mower, turn it off and disconnect the spark plug wire or electric plug.

  • Never leave a running lawn mower unattended.

  • Never carry small children on a riding mower.

  • Never allow children to operate a mower.

  • Mow across slopes if using a walk-behind mower; drive a riding mower up and down slopes.

  • Do not refuel while the mower is running or the engine is hot.

  • Do not smoke near a power mower or gasoline.

String Trimmers

These safety rules can help you avoid injury while using a string trimmer:

  • Wear appropriate protective gear, including safety goggles, hearing protection and gloves. Persons who suffer from hay fever may want to wear a disposable mask to reduce the amount of allergenic particles inhaled.

  • Choose clothing that fits trimly and has no strings or dangling straps that could catch in the trimmer or in the underbrush. Avoid ties and jewelry. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes with non-slip soles.

  • Be sure you have read the operator's and safety manuals before using the trimmer. It is important to be familiar with the controls, particularly with how to stop the unit and shut off the engine.

  • Keep the area where you will be working clear of bystanders, children and pets. Manufacturers recommend that no one enter the operating danger zone, an area 50 feet in radius. Even beyond this zone, there is danger of eye injury from thrown objects.

  • Never operate the tool without good visibility and light.

  • Keep the unit and attachments in good working condition. Tighten loose fasteners and replace any missing fasteners before using the unit. Check the cutting head assembly before each use.

  • Always use both hands on the handles. Do not operate one-handed.

Hedge Trimmers

If using gasoline-powered or electric hedge trimmers, follow these safety guidelines:

  • Buy a trimmer that has the cutting teeth and guard close enough together so your finger cannot fit between them.

  • Be sure the trimmer has two handles; one should be a wide forward handle high above the cutting blade.

  • Make sure the trimmer is light enough to handle easily.

  • If using an electric hedge trimmer, use a heavy duty three-wire extension cord with a three-pronged plug. Make sure the extension cord is moisture-resistant and in good repair.

  • Keep children and others away from the working area.

  • Do not stand on a chair or ladder to trim hedges or bushes.

  • Do not clean or adjust the trimmer while it is plugged in.


As the temperature rises, children spend more time outdoors and within easy reach of yard and garden plants and mushrooms, some of which may be poisonous. Many common house and garden plants — such as rhubarb, dieffenbachia, rhododendron, daphne, jimsonweed, oleander, cherry and peach leaves, yew and nightshade — are poisonous.

There is no safe way to determine if plants or mushrooms are poisonous. It is, however, simple to learn what plants may be harmful and to take precautions to keep them out of the reach of curious children.

Do not leave children unattended if poisonous plants grow around the area where your children play. Teach children never to put any plants or berries in their mouths. Many varieties of plant life that animals eat safely may be harmful to humans. For example —

  • The pretty oleander, grown indoors and out, is among the most deadly of plants — so deadly a child can die after ingesting a single leaf.

  • Just a few berries from the daphne, a plant often found in rock gardens, can be fatal to a child.

In some instances, only parts of a plant are poisonous. Rhubarb is a good example. The stalk is edible and delicious, but the leaves are potentially poisonous.

Following is a list of poisonous common house and garden plants, their toxic parts and symptoms of poisoning after ingestion:

House Plants


Toxic Part



Castor bean


Vomiting and diarrhea, burning sensation in mouth and throat. Two to four beans may cause death.


Dieffenbachia or dumbcane, caladium and elephant's ear, Philodendron

All parts

Intense burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue, lips. Death occurs when mouth and tongue swell and block air passage to throat.


Hyacinth, narcissus


Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea even daffodil when eaten in small amounts.


Rosary pea, jequirity
precatory bean


Among the most highly toxic of bean, crabs eye, plants. Severe stomach irritation, incoordination, paralysis. Less than one seed thoroughly chewed can kill an adult.


Flower Garden Plants


Toxic Part



Aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane

Roots, flowers,

Intense nausea, vomiting, convulsions. Although deaths due to eating small amounts of garden aconite have occurred, poisoning is rare.


Autumn crocus

All parts,
especially bulbs

Burning pain in mouth, stomach irritation. Children have been poisoned by eating flowers.



All parts, especially leaves, flowers, seeds

One of the sources of the drug digitalis, used to strengthen the heartbeat. May cause dangerously irregular heartbeat, stomach upset, mental confusion. Convulsions and death may result.



Underground roots (rhizomes) and developed leaves

Severe stomach upset from moderate amounts. However, the unpleasant taste usually prevents consumption of large amounts.



Leaves, flowers,
fruit (red berries)

Source of digitalis-like drugs. Moderate amounts may cause irregular heartbeat, stomach upset, confusion.


Nicotiana, tobacco
(wild and cultivated)

All parts, especially leaves

Nausea, diarrhea, headache, confusion, lack of movement and convulsions. Poisonous or lethal amounts after ingesting cured, smoking or chewing tobacco from foliage of field-grown tobacco or from foliage of garden variety.


Vegetable Garden Plants


Toxic Part



Leaves, vines, sprouts
(green parts), spoiled potatoes

Vomiting, headache. Death has occurred from eating green parts. To prevent poisoning, remove green spots before cooking. Discard spoiled potatoes.



Leaf blade

Stomach pain, vomiting, convulsions. Without treatment, permanent kidney damage or death may result.


Ornamental Plants


Toxic Part


Atropa belladonna,
deadly nightshade

All parts

Produces atropine. Fever, rapid heartbeat, dilated pupils, hot and dry flushed skin.


Carolina jessamine,
yellow jessamine

All parts,
especially flowers

May cause muscle weakness, nervous system depression. Death is from respiratory failure. Children have been poisoned by consuming the flower nectar.


Common privet

Black or blue berries, leaves

Stomach irritation, vomiting.



All parts, including bark, berries

A few berries may produce stomach burning or ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea. Death may result. This plant is particularly dangerous to children.


English ivy

Leaves, berries

Excitement, difficulty breathing, coma eventually.


Golden chain, laburnum

Seeds, pods, flowers

Excitement, intestinal irritation, severe nausea with convulsions and, if large amounts consumed, coma and death.


Heath family (laurels,
rhododendrons, azaleas)

All parts

Salivation, nausea, vomiting,depression. "Tea" made from 2 oz. of leaves has caused poisoning. Larger amounts may be fatal.



Unripe berries, leaves

May be lethal to children, causing circulatory collapse and muscular weakness; stomach irritation in less severe cases.



All parts

Extremely poisonous. Affects heart and digestive system. Meat roasted on its branches has caused death. A few leaves can be fatal.



Seeds, pods

Pods look like pea pods. One or two seeds may cause mild to severe stomach distress.


Yew (English, Japanese)

Needles, bark, berries

Ingestion of foliage weakens and may stop the heart. Small amounts may cause trembling, difficulty breathing. The berry's pulp is slightly toxic, if at all. But the berry's black seeds may be toxic.




Toxic Part




May be fatal if consumed in large quantities.


Black locust

Bark, foliage, young twigs, seeds

Stomach upset with vomiting and diarrhea after ingestion.


Buckeye, horse chestnut

Sprouts, nuts

Stomach upset, confusion, other nervous symptoms. The unpleasant taste prevents consumption of large quantities. Can cause death.


Chinaberry tree

Berries, leaves

Nausea, vomiting, excitement or depression, feelings of suffocation. May be fatal.



Roots, stems, leaves

Children have been poisoned by eating roots or using stems as blowguns. Berries are least toxic part but can cause nausea if too many are eaten raw. Proper cooking destroys toxic chemical.


Jatropha (purge nut,
curcas bean, peregrina, psychic nut)

Seeds, oil, leaves

Nausea, violent vomiting, abdominal pain.



All parts

Eating large amounts of any part raw may damage kidneys. A few acorns probably have little effect. Boiling or roasting removes tannin to make edible.


Wild cherry, chokeberry
black cherry

Leaves, pits, bark

Poisoning and death have occurred in children who ate large amounts of berries without removing the pits. Pits or seeds, foliage and bark contain hydrocyanic acid (prussic acid or cyanide).


Other fruit trees


Beware of the pits of wild and cultivated cherries, peaches, apricots and some almond varieties. Pits and leaves eaten in small amounts should cause little harm.


Yellow oleander,
be-still tree

All parts, especially kernels of the fruit

Found in southern states. Frequent source of serious or lethal poisoning. One or two fruits may be fatal. Symptoms similar to digitalis poisoning.


Plants in Wooded Areas


Toxic Part


Baneberry, doll's eyes

Red or white berries, roots, foliage

Acute stomach cramps, headache, vomiting, dizziness, delirium.


skunk cabbage

All parts, especially roots

Contains calcium oxalate crystals that cause burning and severe irritation of mouth and tongue.


Mayapple, mandrake

Roots, foliage unripe fruit

Large doses may cause symptoms of stomach flu. Ripe fruit is least toxic part, but may affect bowels. Cooked mayapples are safe.


Water hemlock,

All parts, especially the roots

Salivation, tremors, delirium, violent convulsions. One mouthful of root may kill an adult. Many persons, especially children, have died after eating this plant. Roots are mistaken for wild parsnip or artichoke.


Plants in Fields


Toxic Part


Death camas

Bulbs, blossoms

Depression, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea.


Jimsonweed, thornapple

All parts, especially seeds and leaves

Thirst, hyperirritability of nervous system, disturbed vision, delirium. Four to five grams of crude leaf or seed is fatal to a child. Poisoning occurs from sucking nectar from tube of flower or from eating fruits with seeds.


Nightshades, European
bittersweet, horse nettle

All parts, especially unripe berries

Stomach upset, stupor, loss of sensation, possibly death. Children have been poisoned after ingesting a moderate amount of unripe berries. Ripe berries are much less toxic.


Poison hemlock

Root, foliage, seeds

Gradual weakening of muscles and death from paralysis of lungs. Root resembles wild carrot. Seeds are mistaken for anise.


Pokeweed, pigeonberry

Roots, berries foliage

Burning sensation in mouth and throat, stomach upset, cramps.



Although most mushrooms growing in gardens, fields and lawns are non-poisonous, the same rules that apply to other plants apply here. Never eat any mushroom before identifying it. Instruct children never to eat wild mushrooms.

If you suspect that someone you know has eaten any part of a poisonous plant or mushroom, seek medical attention immediately or call the Illinois Poison Center at 800-222-1222 or TTY 312-906-6185. Trained personnel are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Copies of this booklet will be furnished free of charge upon request. To obtain copies, please contact —

Illinois Department of Public Health
Director's Office
535 W. Jefferson St.; Fifth Floor
Springfield, IL 62761
TTY (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466
Fax 217-782-3987