Emergency -

University of South Florida

Florida’s Natural Wonder has a Sting

Living in a sunny state, our children are lucky to be outdoors most of the year. Young children, especially are busy discovering nature and its endless wonder, not thinking about the hazards that they may encounter.

“As summer approaches, we see more kids with reactions to insect bites and stings. Some reactions can become more serious, so it’s important to know the potential hazards kids are exposed to in nature. Parents need to have an awareness of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as difficulty breathing or swallowing and to know when to seek medical attention, ” Dr. Lana Soylu of USF Health Pediatrics said.

According to a Poison Control National data study, young children (under 6 years of age) comprise about 46% of the poison exposures, followed by adults (40%), teens (8%) and children ages 6-12 (6%).

Parents commonly take steps to make the inside of their home safe, but what about the great outdoors? Some insects and flowers can appear harmless to both kids and parents, but they may cause a severe reaction requiring medical attention or a call to the Florida Poison Control Center at (1-800-222-1222).

If possible, and safe, try to take a sample of the plant or insect that gave the reaction when you seek medical assistance.

  • Cute and cuddly caterpillars are kid magnets that can actually cause a trip to the ER with a severe reaction. As they creep across your child’s eager fingers, their spines can leave poison on their hands, causing a reaction.  Common symptoms are itching, pain, and rash, while sometimes blistering and swelling can occur.  Eye irritation can be expected if the caterpillar’s setae (tiny hairs) or spines come in contact with the eyes.
  • Flowers, another ‘must touch’ for kids, can also be poisonous. Lantana, which are a common, colorful choice for Florida butterfly gardens, are poisonous. Around the holidays, poinsettias are common in the home and a potential hazard to kids and pets, too. The Florida Poison Control Center provides more information on Common Poisonous Plants of Florida to create awareness of poisonous wildlife in Florida.
  • Ants, bees, and wasps may not be on our safety radar, but some kids do have allergic reactions, so if your child has a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) or you are concerned, seek medical attention immediately or contact the Florida Poison Control Center if they have a non-life threatening reaction and you need further information about the insect exposure.
  • Black widow and brown recluse spiders (not native to Florida) have bites that mean a trip to the ER. These spiders are very dangerous and if you are bit by one, patients will need to be evaluated and treated before the reaction spreads. Be ready with everything the health care provider will need: your child’s age, weight, time of bite and type of spider. Put the spider in a container to assist with identification if possible.
  • Snakes are more active at night and in the early morning. A few simple precautions are having kids wear close toed shoes and encouraging an awareness and avoidance of indigenous snakes to Florida: The cottonmouth (water moccasin), pygmy rattlesnake, eastern coral snake and diamondback rattlesnake. The canebrake (timber rattlesnake) and copperhead are indigenous to northern Florida.  A call to 9-1-1 is recommended, especially for younger children who are more vulnerable to the effects of snake venom.  The Florida Poison Control Center provides more information on Venomous Snakes of Florida to create awareness of poisonous snakes in Florida.

For more information on poison control hazards in the greater Tampa Bay region, go to www.poisoncentertampa.org and always call Florida Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 in an emergency.

“In any emergency with your child, try to remain calm. And have the poison control number accessible or on your cell phone to enable a quick call,” Dr. Soylu said.  If it’s not an emergency, but you have questions in reference to your child’s care, call USF Health Pediatrics at 1-813-259-8700.

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