Pitching a tent, hiking a new trail and roasting s’mores all make up a perfect summer day. Now that summer is in full swing, it is a great time to get outside with your family to camp and hike. Spending time with your kids is important and fun summer activities create memories that last.
Before you head out on your next camping trip, it is important to understand and identify wildlife that could be potentially dangerous to your family. When camping and hiking, be cognizant of ticks, venomous snakes and poisonous plants. These dangers could turn into a trip to the emergency room.
Ticks are small parasitic insects that are found in bushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. Although they are miniscule in size, their bite can be dangerous. Ticks carry diseases, including Lyme disease, which is the most common tick-born disease in the United States. But don’t panic because your child’s risk of developing Lyme disease is very low here in Alabama.
“Although Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the U.S., it is not in Alabama,” said Ann Slattery, director of the Alabama Poison Information Center. “Spotted FeverRickettsiosis is the most common tick-borne disease in Alabama.”
To keep ticks away while camping and hiking:
• Wear closed-toed shoes or boots, long-sleeved shirts and pants
• Tuck pant legs into socks or shoes for extra protection
• Pull long hair back or wear a hat
• Stay on trail
• Use insect repellent with 20% to 30% DEET and always follow the directions for use carefully
Be sure to check your family for ticks each day of your camping trip. Look in these areas particularly: behind the ears, around the groin, behind the knees and under the arms. If you find a tick, remove it immediately.
Most snakes in North America are not venomous. However, a bite from a venomous snake could be life threatening for children and adults. Keep an eye out for these six venomous snakes in Alabama:
• Timber Rattlesnake
• Pigmy Rattlesnake
• Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
• Eastern Coral Snake
Most snakes do their best to avoid people. They will only bite if they feel threatened, surprised or concerned. If your family sees a snake, leave it be and stay away from it.
If your child is bitten by a venomous snake, Slattery recommends to:
• Immediately go to the closest emergency department
• Remove rings and any constrictive items
• Don’t apply a tourniquet
• Don’t apply ice
• Don’t attempt to cut the area or suck out the venom
• Keep your child calm and warm
Poisonous plants like poison ivy linger around wooded areas and even your own backyard. Poison ivy can be hard to identify because it is often mixed in with other plants. The plant has three leaves on one stem. Remind your kids of the saying, “leaves of three, let them be.”
If you’ve encountered poison ivy before, you know that it causesan itchy, red rash. The “poison” in poison ivy comes from the plant’s colorless, odorless oil, urushiol. Surprisingly, urushiol is not poisonous, but an allergen. Most people who touch it get an allergic reaction. To avoid getting a rash, wear long clothes in areas where poison ivy may grow. And if your kids touch the plant or oil from the plant, wash their skin right away with plenty of soap and water.
“There is an influx of plant exposures reported to the Alabama Poison Information Center over the summer,” said Slattery. “Fortunately, more than 90 percent of these we treat and are observed at home.”
If your family finds themselves in a predicament this summerwith bites, stings and rashes, call 1-800-222-1222 to reach the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama. It is a 24/7 hotline offering free and confidential poison information and treatment recommendations. To learn more about the Alabama Poison Information Center visit https://www.childrensal.org/apic.
Here’s to a safe and fun summer!