Blue skies and warmer temperatures are pulling people out of their homes and into the great outdoors. While spring is a great time to get back outside and explore all of your favorite spots that have been hidden away all winter, there are certain springtime woes to watch out for.
Spring means rising temperatures and growing plants. Spring is also prime time for ticks. These small, spider-like creatures feed on warm-blooded animals, including humans. They will turn bluish grey and swell when they are filled with blood from their host. Ticks usually live in tall grass and wooded areas, although they can be found almost everywhere.
Ticks themselves are not dangerous. If you find one crawling on your skin it can simply be brushed away. Their bites, however, can potentially pose serious health risks. Lyme disease is probably the most common illness caused by ticks. Lyme disease is a potentially serious illness that causes a rash, flu-like symptoms, muscle and joint pain, fever, headache, heart problems, and can lead to chronic arthritis symptoms. It is important to seek medical help as soon as possible if you know you have been bitten by a tick and experience these symptoms. When possible, bring the tick with you to help the doctor properly assess the risk for Lyme disease. Not all types of ticks carry Lyme disease, so being able to properly identify the tick can help in diagnosis.
If bitten by a tick, it is important to remove the tick from your body as soon as possible. Try grabbing the tick with tweezers where it is attached at the skin and pulling gently until the tick is removed, being careful not to squeeze the tick. Be sure to clean the affected area thoroughly after removal.
Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac are the most common plants that can cause a skin rash commonly known as poison ivy. The sap inside these plants’ leaves, stems and roots causes the reaction. People come into contact with this sap by touching the plant, touching clothing that has the sap on it, petting a dog which has run through the plants or even coming into contact with the smoke from a burning plant. Most people, but not all, are allergic to this sap and will have a reaction when exposed. The rash caused by the reaction is usually accompanied by itching and small blisters around the affected area.
The best way to avoid contracting poison ivy is by avoiding contact with the plants as much as possible. When outside, wear long pants, socks, and long sleeved shirts. If clearing shrubbery, be sure to wear protective gloves. Also, be sure to wash clothes thoroughly after exposure.
If you think you have been exposed to poison ivy, remove contaminated clothes and wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Over the counter remedies like hydrocortisone cream, oral antihistamines, and calamine lotion may help to alleviate some symptoms. If the rash is widespread or does not respond to the above treatments, seek professional medical help as soon as possible.
Along with the fragrant flowers of spring come the buzzing bees. While usually minor, bee stings lead to approximately 100 deaths every year. Half of these deaths will occur within the first 30 minutes of being stung.
Bees leave their barbed stinger in the skin after stinging, killing the bee. The stinger may continue to pump venom for some time after the initial sting. Because of this, it is important to remove the stinger as quickly as possible. Using a blunt edge (like the edge of a credit card) to scrape out the stinger is preferred. Avoid squeezing the stinger, if possible.
After a stinger is removed, apply a cold compress to the affected area as well as a local antiseptic. Over the counter antihistamines may also be given for the sting. If the affected area does not improve within 30 minutes, or if the affected person develops hives, shortness of breath, fainting, tightness in the throat or vomiting, dial 911 immediately, as these may by signs of a severe allergic reaction.