As warm weather makes its way in, people are likely to be exposed to plants and insects that could cause common summer ailments.
Whether poison ivy, mosquitos, ticks or fire ants, families eager to venture outdoors should be mindful and take precautions to protect themselves and their children.
“Children often don’t realize they’ve come in contact with one of nature’s many pests until it’s too late," said Dr. Aaron Tolan, a pediatrician with Clemson Primary Care. "Most bug bites are harmless, but some can be painful, spread dangerous diseases or cause severe allergic reactions. Luckily, there are many steps that can be taken beforehand, and at home treatments are available if a likely encounter occurs.”
Prisma Health created the following list of tips for preventing bug bites:
- Wear clothing with sleeves, especially in heavily wooded areas, tall grass or when hiking. As an extra precaution, wear closed-toe shoes and tuck pants into socks.
- Use an insect repellant that contains at least 20 percent DEET. Read the instructions, especially if using in conjunction with sunscreen, and reapply as necessary.
- Avoid scented perfumes when outdoors as they are known to attract mosquitoes.
- Make sure the screens on all of windows and doors are intact to keep out flying insects. If camping or sleeping outside, use a bed net.
- Teach children about fire ant mounds, making sure they understand not to kick or poke the habitats.
- Be sure to check hair and skin for ticks after hiking, camping or extended periods in wooded areas. Younger children will need help with this, but older children should be able to check themselves.
If a bite does occur, Prisma Health recommends the following tips to treat it at home:
- Place an ice pack on any painful bug bites or ones that are beginning to swell to help stave off itching.
- If itchiness has already begun, use an over-the-counter calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to soothe the skin.
- Discourage young children from scratching or picking at any bug bites to avoid further irritation. If they are having trouble ignoring the area, place a band-aid over it. This can help provide relief and protection, even while they are asleep.
Curious children may come in contact with another common summer nuisance: poison ivy. This bright green plant, along with poison oak and sumac, contain an oil called urushiol that can cause an allergic reaction if it comes in contact with skin.
Symptoms will often appear in the form of a rash that is itchy, bumpy or swollen, and red. In severe cases it can cause swelling around the eyes or problems with breathing.
“If you suspect your child has come in contact with poison ivy, begin at-home treatment early," said Dr. Kevin Via with Family Medicine-Northeast in Columbia. "The rash can likely be treated with over-the-counter ointments, creams, or an oatmeal bath, but because topical treatments are less potent than oral treatments, they work better earlier in the course."
If the rash does not improve after ten days, if swelling occurs, becomes painful or leaks pus, visit a doctor immediately as it may be infected.
Prisma Health officials advise those headed outdoors to be on the lookout for poison ivy's telltale three-leaved vines when outdoors and safely remove and discard of them in an effort to help prevent poison ivy exposure.
Avoid burning poison ivy as the smoke can contain urushiol oil and cause a reaction in the respiratory passages if inhaled.
Additional tips and information are available on Prisma Health's website.