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Warm weather brings out poisonous creatures, plants

Warm weather brings out poisonous creatures, plants

April 04, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

With the weather warming up, people will be itching to go outdoors. More people will be hiking and camping, leading to a greater chance of run-ins with tiny critters and slithering snakes that could do more than just frighten both man and beast.

Among the poisonous animals and plants in Washington County are the Northern copperhead, the black widow spider and poison ivy.

Lori Young, horticulture extension educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County, said brown recluse spiders are not common in Maryland, but she knows of local people who have been diagnosed with a brown recluse spider bite.

Asked where they are likely to be found, Young said they don't want to be found - that's why they are called recluse spiders. They prefer dark areas, including wooded areas.

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If a brown recluse spider were transferred into the area and a home, it would prefer areas used infrequently like storage areas, closets and infrequently used beds and clothes, according to the cooperative extension.

Eric Schuetz, a certified specialist in poison information with the Maryland Poison Center at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, says the brown recluse spider is not in Maryland and that some people have been misdiagnosed with that spider's bite.

On the plant side, Schuetz said there are far more poisonous plants in Maryland than poison ivy, oak and sumac, but those three can lead to a poisonous reaction such as a rash, just by touching them.

Dozens of other plants are poisonous if eaten, Schuetz said.

Some people think if it's natural, it's safe, but that's not true, Schuetz said. For a list of poisonous plants in Maryland, visit the Poison Control Center's Web site at www.mdpoison.com/Site/Education/Products.htm.

If you are bitten by a poisonous animal, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Northern Copperhead


Identifying marks: Reddish orange with bold brown cross bands. The head is the color of a penny, hence the name, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Habitat: Woodland areas.

What to do if bitten: Stay calm and immobilize the bitten area. Try to keep the bite area below the level of the heart. Seek immediate medical attention, Schuetz said.

Timber Rattlesnake


Identifying marks: Ranges in color from yellowish to dark brown. Has dark stripes and may have rattle at end of tail, according to DNR.

Habitat: Prefers rocky areas and found in the mountains.

What to do if bitten: Stay calm and immobilize the bitten area. Try to keep the bite area below the level of the heart. Seek immediate medical attention, Schuetz said.

Black widow spider


Identifying marks: Has a reddish-orange hourglass on its glossy black abdomen.

Habitat: Woods and yards including woodpiles where they can hide

What to do if bitten: Stay calm. Wash with warm, soapy water. Apply ice pack and antibiotic cream. Take acetaminophen for pain. Elevate bite area to help prevent swelling and seek immediate medical care, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center Web site.

Schuetz said people might not even feel being bitten.

Brown recluse spider


Identifying marks: Approximately 1/2 inch long with an oval body and a fiddle mark on the front half of its back, near the head, according to Young and the poison center.

Habitat: Not commonly found in Maryland. Likes dark places.

What to do if bitten: Stay calm. Wash with warm, soapy water. Apply ice pack and antibiotic cream. Take acetaminophen for pain. Seek immediate medical care, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Deer tick


Identifying marks: Any identifying marks a deer tick might have would be hard to see because the tick is the size of a dot.

Habitat: Woods, wherever deer are. Can be brought into homes via dogs, Young said.

What to do if bitten: Pull the tick off by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible, using your fingernails or tweezers. Wash the bite area with soap and warm water.

If you notice a bull's-eye rash or experience a rash all over and aches, see your doctor.

Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, according to the poison center's Web site. Symptoms for both include headache, chills, fever and a rash. The symptoms can begin a few days or weeks after being bitten.

Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets


Stinging characteristics: Honeybees are the only stinging insects that leave their stinger in the victim, Schuetz said. Yellow jackets, wasps, hornets and other bees can sting multiple times.

Where found: Everywhere. Be particularly watchful outdoors around sweets, such as soda, Young said.

What to do if stung: If a stinger is present, remove it by scraping a card across the wound. Do not squeeze. Wash the area with warm, soapy water. Apply ice to minimize swelling and take a pain reliever such as Tylenol or ibuprofen, Schuetz said.

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