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Poison Control Center
Happy family in a park.

Seasonal Poisoning Hazards: Summer

As the weather warms and we spend more time outside, families face new risks. Here are some tips to avoid poisonings that occur most often in summer.

Insect bites and stings

Stings from insects such as bees, wasps and hornets can cause pain, redness and swelling at the site of the sting. Most of the time, these people can be treated safely at home. An allergic reaction to the sting can be life threatening. Severe reactions include shortness of breath, throat or tongue swelling, wheezing and weakness. Call 911 immediately if someone is experiencing a severe reaction.

Prevention tips:

  • Wear light-colored shirts and pants.
  • Use insect repellent.
  • Do not swat at stinging insects and leave nests alone.
  • Avoid using scented soaps, perfumes, lotions or hair sprays.
  • Do not walk around barefooted.
  • Pour sodas and other drinks into cups as this will allow you to see a wasp or bee before drinking. Don’t leave food containers open.
  • Keep food covered and clean up spills immediately.
  • Don’t allow food to spoil in picnic areas.
  • Wear a hat and gloves while working among flowers and fruit trees.
  • If you are known to have allergic reactions, keep an EpiPen® on hand and know how to use it.

Insect repellent is great for preventing bites, but it is important to use it safely and correctly.

  • Always read and follow the label directions carefully and wash your hands after using.
  • Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent. Spray on your hands and then rub onto face.
  • Do not use insect repellent with DEET on children under the age of 2 months.
  • Don't apply insect repellent under clothing or to broken or irritated skin.
  • Wear clothing that will cover as much exposed skin as possible.
  • Check your body for ticks and shower soon after being outdoors.

If you need both sunscreen and insect repellent, avoid using combination products because sunscreens need to be applied more frequently.

24-hour Poison Control Center hotline: 1-800-222-1222

Spider bites

Most spider bites do not cause harm. There are 2 species of venomous spiders in Kansas: the female black widow and brown recluse.

Prevention of spider bites:

  • Know that both the black widow and the brown recluse spiders are non-aggressive, and only bite when they are startled or surprised.
  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks when working outdoors.
  • Applying insect repellent containing DEET to skin and clothing can provide extra protection.
  • Clear any yard debris to prevent spiders from making their homes nearby.
  • Shake out clothing, blankets and shoes before using them – especially if they have been unused for quite some time.
  • Make sure your home is sealed to prevent spiders from entering. Caulk cracks and crevices on the outside of the house.
  • Keep the house clean and free of clutter. Vacuum under furniture and clear any spider webs.

If you or someone has been bitten by a spider, call the Poison Control Center hotline: 1-800-222-1222.

Snake bites

Kansas is home to 42 different kinds of snakes. All are beneficial to the environment, but 6 venomous species can pose a risk to humans. Snakes are most active April through October, with most bites occurring when the snake is frightened and acting defensively.

Prevention tips:

  • Avoid surprise encounters. Watch your step and where you put your hands. Use a flashlight at night when you’re outside.
  • Wear protective clothing when outside or doing yardwork.
  • If you see a snake, do not try to pick it up or kill it – simply move away slowly.

Some of a snake’s natural features can help determine if it has venom or not. However, it is safest to consider all snakes as potentially dangerous and to walk away.

Venomous snakes generally have the following characteristics:

  • Diamond or triangle shaped head
  • Elliptical or “cat-like” pupils
  • Long fangs
  • Pits located between eye and nostril
  • May have a rattle

If bitten, remain calm and seek medical help. Remove all jewelry and tight clothing near the bite site. Do not apply a tourniquet or try to suck out the venom. Call the Poison Control Center hotline: 1-800-222-1222.

Algal blooms

Most algae are harmless, but some varieties can produce toxins. Before jumping into the lake, look for excessive amounts of blue-green algae known as harmful algal bloom (HAB).

People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with HAB.

If you think you have been exposed to blue-green algae, consult a healthcare provider immediately. Symptoms may include respiratory problems, diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes or eye irritation.

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