Skip to main content

As the weather warms up, be prepared for outdoor hazards

outdoor-hazards-1.jpgAh, spring! After the long winter months is there anything as inviting as the blooms and buds bursting forth in the outdoors?

In springtime, there are so many wonderful things waiting in the natural world. But there are others, too. And some of them can bite, sting and itch. 


After a relatively mild and wet winter, ticks will likely be abundant in woodlands, leaf litter and the dense ground cover of landscaped areas this spring. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and New Jersey is one of three states that, together, account for over 55% of all Lyme disease cases in the United States.

“When you go outside, wearing light-colored clothes will make it easier to spot any ticks that have crawled onto you,” said Rowan Family Medicine’s Dr. Samantha Plasner. “You can also use an insect repellent, but please read and follow label directions carefully, especially around children.”

To remove a tick, firmly grasp it (preferably with tweezers) as close to the skin as possible and apply firm, backward pressure to remove it. Then clean the area with soap, water and a topical antiseptic. Afterwards, watch for the telltale ‘bulls-eye’ rash of Lyme disease – a pale center surrounded by a bright red rim.

“Not everyone with Lyme disease will develop this rash so watch out for other symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches and joint pain, particularly if a joint becomes red or swollen,” Dr. Plasner said. “If you have any concerns, see your physician immediately. Early treatment with antibiotics is usually effective against Lyme disease.”


Mosquitoes can also transmit illnesses, including encephalitis and West Nile virus. To limit your risk, check your yard for any standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Apply insect repellent to ward off the buzzing bugs, especially at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

Bees, wasps and yellow jackets

Bee, wasp and yellow jacket stings can present a more urgent health issue for those who are sensitive to the venom.

“Remove stingers by scraping across – not squeezing – the spot with a credit card, index card or thick piece of paper,” Dr. Plasner said. “Apply ice to reduce swelling and seek medical help for anyone who receives multiple stings at the same time, develops hives or experiences swelling that continues to spread after 24 hours. Any breathing difficulties or throat closing sensation should prompt an immediate call to 911.”


Barely visible to the eye, chiggers are biting bugs that inhabit grassy fields and moist areas.

“Chiggers do not burrow under the skin,” Dr. Plasner explained. “Instead, chigger bites inject enzymes that cause intense itching. Treat chigger bites with calamine lotion or over-the-counter medications, including corticosteroid creams or oral antihistamines.”


Finally, be careful going out in the sun, she advised. “Cover up with a hat, sunglasses and water-resistant sunscreen that has an SPF rating of 30 or higher and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.”