Snakes and bugs are part of summer in the Ozarks. Mostly they’re harmless, but some snakes and bugs bite — and some of them can be venomous or carry diseases. Let’s face it, they can also be appealing to curious kids.
How can you keep your children safe from snakes and harmful insects while still enjoying the outdoors this summer? It takes some knowledge and some forethought.
Tick- and Mosquito-borne Disease
Ticks carry pathogens that can cause disease, and mosquitoes are known for transmitting viruses. These diseases can affect children as well as adults.
Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, and babesiosis are some of the more common diseases transmitted to humans through tick bites. Mosquitoes are known to transmit Malaria (disease), West Nile virus and Zika virus, among other diseases. Both ticks and mosquitoes are capable of transmitting many other viruses and diseases that can cause a number of health complications.
Not all of these diseases are found in Arkansas. The CDC has maps showing the distribution of disease-bearing ticks and of Zika-bearing mosquitoes. If you have traveled to an area where the disease is prevalent, you may have been bitten during your travels and start seeing symptoms only after you return home.
Insect repellent is one of the best ways to help prevent tick bites and mosquito bites. Be sure to check labels and use insect repellent only as directed.
Other ways to prevent bites from insects include wearing long sleeves and pants, staying indoors during the times when ticks and mosquitoes are most active, avoiding walking through heavy vegetation and tall grass, and avoiding sweet-smelling colognes and perfumes.
Approximately 7,000 – 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year, and about 5 of those people die. Snakebite death statistics may seem low, but snake venom has a much greater affect on small children than on a fully grown adult.
Avoidance is the best way to keep kids safe from snake bites. Steer clear of snakes by knowing where they like to stay. Snakes are usually found under and behind logs or rocks, and in holes and crevices. They typically like to stay in the shade on hot days, and stay in the sun on cool days.
Knowing how to identify venomous snakes can help keep you and your children safe, but it’s typically a good idea to treat all snakes as if they were poisonous. That is to say that you and your children should keep a safe distance and give snakes space. Most people can’t tell the difference between a harmless rat snake and a venomous copperhead, so it’s best not to assume that you know the difference.
Know what to do if you see a snake. The best approach is to stand still, and wait for it to move. Most snakebites happen when people are intentionally trying to handle the snake.
Other things you can do to stay safe from snakes: wear close-toed shoes, footwear with ankle support, and long pants. Stay out of tall grass and be alert. Keeping an eye out for snakes is a good way to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
If you or your child should be bitten by a tick, a mosquito, or a snake and you feel concerned, visit your doctor. Tests can be taken for many of these diseases which will let you know for certain whether there is an infection present. Treatments exist for most of these diseases, and your doctor can help you determine the best course of action in each case.