Get Outside … But Beware!

By: NATALIA PATTERSON

Springtime is here, and the increasingly good weather makes it a good time to get outside! Hiking is a good option, as there are many good places to go hiking around the Bay Area, including trails at the Benicia State Recreation Area and the Bay Area Ridge Trail in Vallejo. However, when you are out in nature, there are always hazards you should watch out for. This includes poisonous plants. Especially during springtime when many plants are growing,it’s important that you are able to recognize plants that could be harmful and steer clear of them.

Among one of the most common poisonous plants in our area is poison oak. This plant can be recognized by its leaves, which grow in groups of three. A rhyme that is commonly used to remember this is: “Leaves of three, let them be.” Poison oak is a bright green color during spring, but its leaves turn red during summer and fall, and it is active year-round. The leaves and stems of the plant contain an oil that can cause an allergic reaction, resulting in itching of the skin. This oil can also contaminate your clothes or any other surfaces. If rubbed into the eyes, the oil will cause them to sting badly. To stop this, you should wash your skin with soap and warm water as soon as possible if you come in contact with poison oak.

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Another poisonous plant is stinging nettle. This plant is covered with small, barb-like hairs that release irritants upon contact, which can cause a burning sensation on your skin. Nettle plants are tall, 2 to 5 feet on average, and can be identified by tiny, light green flowers hanging off of their stems. Unlike poison oak, there are no oils released onto your skin by the plant, so it cannot be spread onto your clothes.

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Hiking trails are not the only place where you can find poisonous plants during spring. Many people aren’t aware that some plants they have in their gardens and homes are poisonous, too. For example, plants with bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips, and irises, can be harmful if ingested by a dog or a cat. In addition, daffodils and tulips contain chemicals that can cause irritation of your skin.

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Another poisonous plant is the philodendron. This is one of the most popular house plants, but can be toxic to both humans and animals. Though it rarely has serious effects when ingested by children, it should be kept away from pets, and has shown to be especially dangerous to cats. It may also sometimes be a vining plant that can grow tall, and should be kept trimmed or away from pets and small children.

In addition, the poinsettia, a festive plant usually bought during Christmas, is poisonous to animals and humans. While it is a myth that the flowers are fatal, they do cause nausea and vomiting if ingested. Also, the sap from the flowers can create a rash on your skin. Poinsettias are most often a red color, but can be other colors, too.

Plants are not the only thing to be cautious of while hiking and gardening. With the weather warming, tick season is starting. Not only can ticks be found in forests and wilderness areas, but they may also be present in your own backyard. Usually, they live in bushes and grassy areas. To avoid being bitten, you should stay away from long grass and bushes. When hiking, try to stay in the middle of the trail, away from plants that ticks are likely to inhabit. Also, wearing long pants while hiking exposes less skin for a tick to bite.

To remove a tick, apply oil to the area where the tick has bitten you. This will cause the tick to suffocate, and it will pull its head out from under the skin. Then, take the tick out using tweezers. Make sure to remove the head of the tick. It is not necessary to visit the doctor after a tick bite, unless you experience a rash or a fever in the next few days.

Overall, even though some things in nature may be harmful, you should not let them get in the way of spending time outdoors. If you are aware of the potential hazards and know how to deal with them, you will be able to enjoy your time with nature and avoid unpleasant experiences.

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