Summertime is the blissful season for making memories. It is a rare opportunity, once a year, for your children to take a break from their studies and explore the world freely. Getting outside and being active in nature can create moments your kids will remember forever, not to mention, it has the potential to spark a passion for a happier, healthier lifestyle. But outdoor critters, growling wildlife, slithering creatures, and other pesky pests can make adventures not only a little scary but, sometimes, dangerous too! While summer is the most active time for many insects and animals, with the right insight and protection, your family can still hike, bike, swim, and play with confidence. So, keep reading for the information you need to be prepared to handle the summer bugs and others potentially alarming animals safely this season.
When we think of bug bites on kids, mosquitos commonly jump to the top of our minds. These annoying pests can make spending time outdoors difficult. The bites are usually benign, however mosquitos suck blood of animals and humans and can carry diseases such as West Nile virus, zika, and malaria from one host to the next. While for many, mosquito bites are unavoidable, they can be minimized by wearing long pants, shirts, and socks at nighttime during the summer and using child-safe insect repellents. Take care of the bug bites with a lotion or cream recommended by your pediatrician, typically calamine or hydrocortisone.
Other scary flyers can include bees, wasps, and yellow jackets which are often more active and aggressive during the summer months. While stings can be painful, some kids might also be allergic, and anaphylaxis is possible, so be sure to always keep a very close eye on your children as they play outdoors, avoid areas known to have large stinging insect populations when possible. If your child does get stung, watch closely and be prepared in case of a severe reaction. If your child experiences swelling, rash, nausea, dizziness, or vomiting, they are likely experiencing an allergic reaction. Call your pediatrician, 911, or visit the emergency room.
With melted popsicles and other salty sweet snacks lying around while playtime continues, ants run rampant! Usually just a nuisance, there is an exception: red ants. This aggressive ant breed can bite and sting the skin causing a burning sensation and deep itch. Make sure your child knows to watch out for red ants, stay away, and tell an adult immediately if they see them and especially if they experience a bite. Kids can protect themselves by watching where they sit down and step when near outdoor critters. Take caution because some kids might have an allergic reaction as a result of fire ant bites and could need medical attention.
Another pesky pest, and a super scary one at that, are scorpions. These arachnids, common in the southwest US, have pincers for hands and a stinger on their tail, complete with venom. Since scorpions breed in the summertime, there are likely many to be found if you see even just one. While scorpion stings are usually not fatal, young kids can be at risk for dangerous reactions. So, be sure to explain the dangers to your child and keep your eyes out to avoid them. Keep in mind, if you spot one near your home, it can mean an infestation. Consider calling a professional for help mediating the problem to help keep your child safe.
If you’re taking a vacation this summer, look out for bed bugs. They are often found in hotel sheets and mattresses. Check in the carpets, under sheets, and below the mattress at every place you stay to avoid itchy bites and an infestation in your home of these blood sucking bugs. Keep in mind that while bed bug bites on kids are generally benign, several bites can cause an allergic reaction.
Summertime brings spiders indoors to avoid the heat. So, watch out around your home for these creepy crawlers! Most spiders are not dangerous or harmful, aside from the annoying itchy bites they leave behind. But some are poisonous, so be sure to call a professional for help if you suspect an infestation. The black widow spider’s bites have a powerful venom that can cause nausea, aches, and difficulty breathing. Protect your family by sealing off the entry points of your home and reducing clutter for them to hide in.
If you’re a dog loving family, you’re sure to have heard of ticks. These outdoor critters are not just a problem for your dog, they can harm your children too. Ticks are small arachnids that change in color and size before and after feeding. They typically jump out of the long grass and stay attached to the skin of animals and people to feed on blood.
So, if you’re out hiking, or even just in your backyard, get in the habit of checking your little one (and yourself) for ticks. They can carry and transmit harmful parasites, viruses, and bacteria such as lyme disease. Know how to remove and dispose of them properly, (using rubbing alcohol and clean tweezers) and if you find one on an animal or person, do so as soon as possible. Tell your pediatrician if your child experiences a tick bite so they can carefully monitor the situation.
Snakes are the source of fear for many individuals year round. But in the summer, especially, you might find yourself in contact with one when hiking, or even just around your neighborhood. You might notice one as it scurries from one patch of shade to the next. It is important to make sure you and your child are prepared in the event of an encounter. Know the common snakes in the areas you are living or visiting to know the best ways to handle them.
For example, rattlesnakes are commonly found in California and are notorious for the distinctive rattling noise they make when they feel threatened. Bites from rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes can sometimes be lethal. In the event of a bite, call an ambulance immediately and keep the bite above the level of the heart until your child receives medical attention. To prevent bites, stay alert when walking outside and if you spot a snake, move away carefully without making sudden movements. Explain to your child the importance of remaining calm in these circumstances to protect their safety.
Outdoor critters come in all shapes and sizes! So, bobcats, coyotes, and bears are certainly not to be forgotten. Remember to take caution when spending time outdoors, especially at night. Research the animals common to your area and what to do in the event of a sighting or attack. Consider keeping wild animal sprays on hand and have other practical knowledge top of mind to diffuse a dangerous situation if necessary.
If your family is planning to go camping, be sure to check your location before arrival for potentially dangerous animals. It is vital to know how to protect yourself and your family, keeping the kids out of harm’s way when taking on outdoor activities. Consult park professionals where you are camping and medical professionals beforehand to get the best advice on how to avoid, prevent, and head off potential attacks — so you can feel safe and in control during your family’s summer vacations.
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we want to encourage your family to get outside and enjoy the warm weather, sunshine, and nature safely this summer. You can help prevent summer bugs and many other pests by using insect repellents, sprays, and practicing caution when hiking or engaging in other outdoor activities. If your child experiences bites, your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician can assist you in finding the best medications and products for kids to relieve discomfort and aid in recovery. For more information, you can make an appointment with your pediatrician to talk about the pests in your location and ways to stay prepared and informed about outdoor critters. Visit us at www.coastalkids.com.