Camping: Dangerous bugs and plants you could encounter

This summer’s gorgeous weather and lack of rainfall is the perfect chance to get in tune with nature, by heading out on a week-long camping trip with the family. If you’ve never been camping, the great outdoors can feel a little daunting.

We fill you in on the creepy crawlies and health concerns you might encounter during your time outdoors.

Bug bites

Flies, mosquitoes and ticks are inevitable when camping. To keep flies and mosquitoes away, have a citronella candle handy if you’re staying in one place, such as roasting marshmallows around the campfire. For active days, apply bug repellant to your skin along with your daily dose of sunscreen.

Some tick species, such as the black-legged and deer ticks, can transmit Lyme disease to humans. To keep these little buggers away, wear hats and cover exposed skin with long-sleeve t-shirts and pants instead of shorts. Avoid ticks by staying clear of brush or any tall grass. Use DEET-based repellants on your clothing, but don’t spray it on your skin. If you find a tick on you or your child’s skin, remove it right away.

Sun burns and rashes

Camping in an area with lots tree cover might not seem like an obvious place to get a sunburn, but it happens. Before you head out, make sure you and your kids lather on sunscreen in any exposed areas. Your child’s face, neck and back are three commonly ignored areas. Also, wear hats since your scalp can get burned without it.

You could come in contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac when camping. Brushing up against any of these will result in a rash, but it’s not contagious. The rash only infects the spot where the plant’s oil has touched the skin. If you notice the rash spreading, it’s because of repeated exposure or because there’s residue plant oil trapped underneath your fingernails.

If you come into contact with any of the plants, wash your skin in cool water as soon as possible. There’ll be a greater chance that you can remove the plant oil or at least prevent it from spreading. To relieve the itch, use a wet compress or apply calamine lotion.

Avoid this unpleasant rash by covering as much skin as possible. Tuck your pants into your boots to keep your ankles from being exposed.

If you display these symptoms after coming in contact with the plant, see a doctor:

  • a temperature over 100F (37C)
  • pus, soft yellow scabs, or tenderness on the rash
  • the rash spreads to your eyes, mouth or genital area
  • the rash does not improve within a few days.

Don’t eat the berries

The safest option is to say no to any berries your kids try to eat. There are nine different types of poisonous berries, as well as three that grow on poison ivy, oak, and sumac, that your family can encounter.

Yew berries: Red or blue berries that grow on evergreen trees or shrubs.
Holly berries: Red berries that grow on deciduous or evergreen shrubs.
European Holly: Red berries that grow among white flowers.
Daphne: Berries that grow among green and pink flowers that smell sweet.
Privet berries: Purple or black berries.
Pokeweed: Dark-purple berries that grow with a greenish white flower.
Jerusalem cherry: Looks similar to a cherry tomato.
Elderberry: Black, blue-black or red berries growing on a white or cream-coloured flower.
Doll’s Eye: Large berries with a white a black mark that looks similar to eyes.
Poison ivy: White berries from a plant that grows in leaflets of three.
Poison oak and sumac: Yellow-white berries that grow on a shrub or vine with leaflets of three.

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