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What Are the Odds?

The best thing about summer is that you get to spend so much time outside. But, being outside may cause worry about your statistical odds of a bad situation arising.

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It is in the great outdoors that we come face to face with the things that make us shudder the most. We dip our toes into the ocean and scan the water's surface for fins. We hear the tornado siren and our pulse quickens. We walk in the woods and cast a wary eye over our shoulders at every rustle in the brush.

Fortunately, our imaginations are almost always worse than the reality. The chances of anything really bad happening are minuscule. And even those small odds can be lengthened with a little knowledge. Take a look at these scenarios and their odds.

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The Elements

The Scenario: Being struck by lightning
The Odds: 1 in 240,000

There's a reason lightning strikes and lotteries are often mentioned in the same sentence. Only about 100 people in the United States die each year from lightning. Most strikes occur from June through August. Serious burns are actually rare. The most common injury is nervous system damage from the voltage. To reduce your risk:

  • Seek cover when you're outdoors and less than 30 seconds pass between lightning and the following thunder.
  • Find shelter in a walled building or car. Stay out of bus stop shelters or tents. If there's no shelter, find a low area. Avoid clearings, single trees, and metal objects such as poles and fences.

The Scenario: Dying in a tornado
The Odds: 1 in 5 million

About 60 people are killed each year by tornados; the usual cause of death is flying or falling debris. These tips will help you stay safe during tornados:

  • Know the signs. These include a long, loud rumbling, and hail or heavy rain followed by a pronounced calm.
  • If one is approaching, head to your basement or, if you have no basement, a bathroom or closet in the center of your house. Get in the tub and cover yourself with a blanket or mattress to protect you from debris.

Insects and Snakes

The Scenario: Dying from a bee, hornet, or wasp sting
The Odds: 1 in 5.33 million

Only a few dozen people die each year from severe allergic reactions to stings. To keep from being stung:

  • Avoid setting down a drink in a bottle or can while you're outdoors. Stinging insects may fly inside, then sting you on the mouth.
  • If a few insects are flying around you but not attacking, walk slowly away without swatting at them. Sudden movements aggravate them.
  • If you're being attacked, run for a building or enclosed vehicle. Cover your mouth and nose with your hands (they tend to go for the face).

The Scenario: Being bitten by a venomous snake
The Odds: 1 in 37,250

Although snakes bite roughly 45,000 Americans each year, fewer than 20 percent of those are from venomous snakes. Only 12 people a year die from a bite. Follow these tips from the journal American Family Physician:

  • Keep an eye peeled near tall grass, fallen logs, marshes, and other snake habitats.
  • If you must walk through tall grass, poke around in front of you with a walking stick to warn reptiles.
  • Wear loose pants and high, thick boots so that if a snake strikes at you, the chances are better its teeth won't break skin.
  • Shine a light in front of you when walking at night.

Sharks and Bears

The Scenario: Being attacked by a shark
The Odds: 1 in 11.5 million

You're far more likely to sustain an injury from a toilet seat than a shark, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF). Only 23 people were involved in unprovoked shark attacks in 2000, and that was the record year for attacks. You're on your own when it comes to toilet safety, but here are the ISAF's suggestions for avoiding shark attacks:

  • Stay in groups and keep close to shore.
  • Avoid the water at night and in twilight; sharks are most active then.
  • Avoid wearing shiny jewelry. It attracts sharks.

The Scenario: Being attacked by a bear
The Odds: 1 in 36 million

Twelve people, on average, are mauled by bears each year in North America. Because you don't want to be one of those 12, heed this advice from Dr. Luanne Freer, president of the Wilderness Medical Society:

  • When entering a park area that's home to bears, always obey the signs.
  • Keep all food in sealed containers while in bear country, and never feed a bear. Bears that eat human food sometimes see humans as food.
  • If you see a bear, always keep your distance. Never edge closer to get a better photo. Bears are faster than you think.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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