4 Hidden Dangers to Watch Out for This Summer

Time spent outdoors this summer, and especially as we head into the slightly cooler months of fall, can make the best childhood memories — family hikes, camping trips, and trail explorations. However, they can also make for some pretty itchy–possibly poo-filled — situations that while yes, they too will be memorable, they may not be the childhood memories you’re hoping for. Learn how to spot and prevent common natural dangers in your woods and waters to keep outdoor childhood memories pleasant!

1. Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy, although commonly known to cause an itchy rash, is not so commonly known how to spot. Its green leaves blend in with the forestry around it so well that moms and children, unless paying close attention, may brush into it and not even notice until 12 to 48 hours after contact, when the rash appears and itching begins.

The red, fluid-filled rash appears due to a sensitivity to an oil found on the leaves, stem, and roots of the plant called urushiol. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, about 80 to 90 percent of adults will break out in a rash when exposed to only a small amount of urushiol, less than that of one grain of table salt. Even more of a hidden danger may be burning poison ivy. Burning poison ivy releases the allergen into the air where it can be inhaled, causing irritation to the lungs.

  • What to look for:
    When outdoors, look for leaves of three (Leaves of three, let it be!). The three green leaves will be shiny, and on a rope-like vine, with the leaves budding from one stem, and typically forming a low shrub. In the fall, the leaves may turn red.
  • Prevention:
    Be vigilant in spotting the plant. If you are planning on being in wooded areas and off of the trails, wear long pants or high socks to protect the ankles and legs, and/or long sleeves and gloves if needed.
  • What to do if contact is made:
    Wash the area right away with a de-greasing soap (to rid the oils on the skin) such as dishwashing soap and a lot of water. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly so as not to spread the oils to any other part of your body. If a rash appears, to relieve the itching, calamine lotion may be applied, or an all natural alternative, such as oatmeal baths, that may soothe the skin until the rash is healed.

2. Poison Oak

Very similar to poison ivy, poison oak also secretes urushiol causing an itchy rash when coming in contact with skin. The plant can be found in wooded areas, alongside streams, fields, and even backyards.

  • What to look for:
    Leaves of three, let it be! The three green leaves will resemble leaves of an oak tree, growing from one stem. The plant can grow as a shrub, ground-vine, and climbing-vine depending on where in the United States you live.
  • Prevention:
    Again, if you are planning on being in wooded areas and off of the trails, wear long pants or high socks to protect the ankles and legs, and/or long sleeves and gloves if needed.
  • What to do if contact is made:
    Wash the area right away with a de-greasing soap (to rid the oils on the skin) such as dishwashing soap and a lot of water. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly so as not to spread the oils to any other part of your body. If a rash appears, to relieve the itching, calamine lotion may be applied, or an all natural alternative, such as oatmeal baths, that may soothe the skin until the rash is healed.
Poison Sumac, found in the eastern United States and Canada, is another plant that also secretes the same urushiol oil. It is a woody shrub with 7-13 leaves arranged in pairs.

3.Ticks

With the number of counties having a high incidence of Lyme Disease in the United States increasing more than 320% according to a new Time Magazine report this summer, more and more people are becoming aware of the little insect that can cause a great deal of problems with just one bite. Blacklegged ticks, approximately the size of a sesame seed, can transfer the Lyme disease-causing bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi with just one bite. But what keeps this danger so hidden is the fact that, according to the CDC, most people are bit by immature ticks not yet fully grown (approximately the size of a poppy seed), so they are very easily missed when doing body checks. Think, teeny-tiny! Once bitten, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours for the bacteria to be transmitted, but being so small, most people won’t even feel the initial bite or know to look for one unless being vigilant.

  • What to look for:
    After being in wooded or high grass areas, bathe or shower immediately to rinse off any crawling ticks. Be sure to do a full body check, using a mirror if necessary, of tick-hotspots such as under the arms, behind the knees, between the legs, in and around the ears, and in the hair. Be sure to do a full body check on the kids as well. Place clothing in the dryer on high heat to kill any ticks that may be on your clothing.
  • Prevention:
    While the CDC advises wearing a bug spray containing DEET to ward off ticks, moms wary of applying DEET to their children can opt for an all natural, essential oil based option, such as California Baby Natural Bug Blend Bug Repellent Spray.
  • What to do if contact is made:
    Remove the tick with a pair of tweezers, getting the tweezers as close to your skin as possible. Be sure to pull the tick straight up, without twisting, to be sure that the head remains intact with its body. Dispose of the tick by placing it in rubbing alcohol and sealed in a plastic bag, or flushed down the toilet. Clean the bite wound with soap and water. Initial symptoms of Lyme Disease may include a bulls-eye rash, headache and stiff neck, and fatigue.

4. Giardia

Giardia, one of the leading causes of waterborne disease, can potentially be found in all wilderness lakes and streams, backyard creeks, or actually any body of water that can become contaminated by sewage from either human or animal — yes, that means swimming pools, too. Giardia is a contagious germ that causes nausea, bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and most of all, extreme diarrhea. People usually become infected by swallowing the contaminated water, or sometimes by touching contaminated items (such as food) and then ingesting the germ. There’s no denying that this is a nasty little bug, and strong too. The CDC says that its outer shell is so strong, that even in a properly chlorinated pool, it can live for up to 45 minutes.

  • What to look for:
    Unfortunately, Giardia is microscopic and cannot be seen by the naked eye.
  • Prevention:
    When out in the wilderness, bring filtered water with you or pre-treat any water before drinking it by boiling it first. When swimming in a recreational pool, rinse off when entering and exiting the pool. Use the restroom, not the pool. Urine and sunscreen lower the effectiveness of chlorine in the pool. Change swim diapers often in the restroom, away from the pool area. Also, be sure that the chlorine levels of the pool are checked often. Finally, try not to swallow pool water.
  • What to do if contact is made:
    If you knowingly come in contact with an infected person (or animal), wash your hands with soap and water immediately. Signs and symptoms mentioned above usually appear one week after initial infection, and last approximately two weeks. Seek medical attention if you show any symptoms and be sure to mention to your doctor if you have been in any recreational or wilderness water recently.

Whether you decide to go for a hike or a swim, don’t let the hidden dangers scare you from taking advantage of all that mother nature has to offer this summer. Just remember, prevention is key — know what to look for and always clean up afterwards!

Interested in all natural ways to keep the bugs away from your little ones while you spend time outdoors this summer? Check out 4 Natural Ways to Keep the Bugs Away.

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.


Photo Credits: Stephanie, Shiny Things

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Stephanie

Stephanie is a military wife, currently residing in New York, and mama of two exceptionally curious kiddos - a rugged pint-size princess and a toddling Evel Knievel-in-training - and one sweet, easy going baby boy. When she isn't exploring the family's newest dwellings, running trails, farmers' markets, and playgrounds, she spends her down time working from home, feverishly correcting "textspeak" in her college students' essays as an adjunct English instructor for a local community college. Her passion for writing and photography can be found at Stephanie High Photography on facebook

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