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Spring break

Weeding, painting and scrubbing the oven all seem like pretty safe tasks. But every year, thousands of people get hurt during well-meaning spring-cleaning sprees. Ladder injuries alone sent more than half a million people to the ER in 2006. Here’s how to avoid becoming a statistic:

Wise up to the ways of the ladder:

   —Before you climb, make sure the ladder is sturdy and that the rungs are dry and in good shape.
   —Place it on an even, firm surface.
   —Put the ladder’s locks or braces in place.
   —Don’t climb too high. On a stepladder, stop at the second rung from the top; on an extension ladder, don’t go above the fourth rung from the top. The Home Safety Council recommends moving the base of the ladder out one foot for every four feet you climb.
   —Don’t lean too far to one side—the ladder could tip. A good rule of thumb: Don’t let your bellybutton stray beyond the sides of the ladder.
   —Don’t sit on top of a stepladder. The shelf isn’t meant to carry your weight.

Get rid of piles. Clear clutter from stairs, landings and floors so you can move safely around your house.

Lift and carry the right way:

   —Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
   —Keep your back straight and bend at the knees while tightening your stomach muscles.
   —Lift with your legs.
   —Enlist a helper if something is too heavy or cumbersome.
   —When climbing stairs, only carry loads you can see over and that allow you to keep one hand free for banisters and railings.

Skip the chemical cocktails. Never mix cleaning products, such as bleach and ammonia; doing so can produce dangerous fumes. Read directions carefully to make sure you’re using the product correctly or try “greener” cleaning products made from all-natural ingredients that aren’t as caustic as traditional cleaners. Or you can whip up your own solvent: Use a little baking soda and water to clean the oven or combine lemon juice or vinegar with water for a nontoxic glass cleaner.

Get the right gear. Wear a mask and gloves to protect your nose and hands from harsh cleaners.

Don’t overdo it in the garden. Repetitive motions can cause muscle aches, so alternate between weeding, digging, planting and pruning.

Take a break. You need to replenish your body’s fluids and prevent dehydration, especially in warm weather. If you feel dizzy or short of breath or have chest pain, call for emergency medical assistance right away.