Summer Safety: Poisons to keep away from your family

Calls to poison control centers spike during summer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the summer temperatures rise across Florida, so do calls to poison control centers, according to a report from the Florida/ USVI Posion Information Center. 

Part of the reason for the increase is because children are out of school and more people are doing things outdoors, said Emily Jaynes Winograd, with the Clinical Toxicology Emergency Department at UF Health. 

The dangers not only include snake bites, spider bites, and other venomous insects. They also include things like bug spray and your swimming pool- which can put your child at risk.

The poison control center staff want you to remember these summer safety tips. 

Pool Chemical Safety:

Over the summer, more people are trying to cool off in a pool. This leads to a significant 71% increase in calls involving pool chemicals over the summer and with a peak in calls around June.

“The thing we see most frequently is exposure to chlorine or shock treatments,” said Winograd.

  • Experts recommend storing pool chemicals high enough to be out of the reach of children and away from anything else that is flammable. 
  • If you are exposed to pool chemicals, try moving to an area away from them and into fresh air.
  • Follow the product instructions carefully
  • Never mix pool chemicals because it could create a toxic gas.

Insect Repellent Safety:

Poison Control also reports a drastic increase of calls involving bug spray and DEET, in the summertime. Calls involving children nearly double. A simple step can reduce that number, said Winograd. 

“In smaller children you don’t want to apply bug spray directly to their face or hands. Little kids put their hands in their mouth and then they’re ingesting insecticide, and we don’t want that. Something simple that adults can do is apply the product in your hands first and then put it on the child’s face,” said Winograd.

  • Read and follow product instructions carefully; some repellents are not meant to be applied to the skin.
  • Do not use combination sunscreen/insect repellent products. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but repellent should not be reapplied. 
  • DEET should not be used on children younger than two months old. 
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.

Snakes and Spider Bites:

Snake and spider bite calls increase more than 30% over the summer months and peak in July and August.

  • Call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or 911, if unarousable, convulsing, or stopped breathing) if you believe you have been bitten by one of the six venomous snakes of Florida: coral snake, cottonmouth (water moccasin), Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, copperhead, or canebrake (timber) rattlesnake.
  • If bitten by a snake, remove jewelry and tight clothes, immobilize the extremity if possible, keep affected area at or below the heart, and wash the area gently. DO NOT feed the victim, make cuts or place ice on the bitten extremity, or apply a tourniquet.
  • If bitten by a spider, call the poison control center immediately. 

READ MORE: Snakes slithering into homes after hard rain

“Just being aware of your environment can be helpful.  Especially with snakes, if you’re out in a wooded area, wearing covered shoes and tall socks can really help reduce your risk of being bit,” said Winograd.

Other Outdoor Hazards: 

Jellyfish and other aquatic life bite and sting calls spike nearly 40% during summer.

  • At the beach, bring a spray bottle with vinegar in it in case of jellyfish stings. Call the poison control center if you’re stung for specific treatment advice. 
  • Treat all wild mushrooms as poisonous unless you are absolutely certain they are safe to eat. 
  • Initially apply a baking soda paste to any insect stings, including fire ants, bees, wasps, caterpillars. Then call the poison control center for more specific treatment advice.

READ MORE: Forget these mistakes and treat jellyfish stings the right way

Proper Pesticide Use:

  • Read the entire label and follow product instructions; make sure product is properly stored and disposed of according to label.
  • Keep all pesticides in their original containers.
  • Avoid using products that require leaving powder or pellets in areas where children or pets may have access to them.

For more information, visit Florida's Poison Control Centers website.