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The many warm and sunny days in the Yuma area allow kids to spend plenty of time outside playing. But parents should be aware of the unique dangers their children face in the desert environment.
To keep kids safe, the University of Arizona Medical Center has created the following tips for parents living in the Sonora Desert:
• Cacti - If a cactus spine sticks your child, pull it out with a tweezers or use cellophane tape or a fine-toothed comb, being careful not to break off the spine. To remove smaller spines that may not even be visible to the eye, apply a thick layer of household glue and let it dry. As the glue is peeled off, the spines come out. Apply antiseptic to the puncture wounds. Watch carefully for redness or swelling which may indicate an infection from fungus on the spines.
• Oleanders - The plant is among the most popular landscaping shrubs, but their long narrow leaves and brightly colored red, pink or white flowers are extremely poisonous. Don't plant oleanders in areas of your yard where young children spend time. A toddler might chew the leaves or suck the flower nectar. These forms of contact cause nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, drowsiness and convulsions. Contact can be fatal within 24 hours. If contact is suspected, call the poison hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.
• Rattlesnakes - They are most active during the warm summer months of April through October, particularly at night. However, most reptiles will not bite unless provoked. Your best bet is to leave them alone. If your child is bitten, immediately seek professional medical attention.
• Gila monsters - They are the only known venomous lizards in the world. They will not attack humans unless significantly agitated. When they do attack, they deliver a tenacious bite — clamping down with their teeth and not letting go. When bitten, it is important to disengage the lizard as soon as possible. If your child is bitten, immediately seek medical attention.
• Scorpions - Of the many species of scorpions found in Arizona, only the bark scorpion is regarded as life-threatening. Small children are at highest risk and can show “roving eye” symptoms and hyperactivity. First aid should include cleaning the site with soap and water, applying a cool compress, elevating the affected limb to approximately heart level and taking Tylenol as needed for minor discomfort. If your child is bitten, immediately seek medical attention.
• Brown Recluse Spiders - They can be found in dry, littered and undisturbed areas such as closets, woodpiles and under sinks. After a bite, a lesion may develop and flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, joint pain and fever, are often reported. If your child is bitten, immediately seek medical attention.
• Black Widow Spiders - The black widow is generally nocturnal and will bite only if she is directly threatened. For children under five, the bite of a black widow can be life-threatening. If your child is bitten, immediately seek medical attention.
• Sun exposure - Excess exposure can cause sunburn, premature aging, wrinkled, leathery and rough skin, and skin cancer. Children's tender skin is especially vulnerable. Use sunscreen year-round. Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Help children develop the sunscreen habit by applying it to them automatically when they go outside. Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun's rays are most intense. Cover up. Wear long sleeves and pants, hats and sunglasses with UV protection. Protect your skin even on cloudy days. Protect babies' and toddlers' eyes by putting hats or visors on them, especially when they're riding in car seats with sun pouring in on them.
• Dehydration - It is important to keep children hydrated while they play. They should drink plenty of fluids (water, fruit juice, lemonade, sports drinks) to keep properly hydrated. Avoid giving them caffeinated beverages such as iced tea or soda when physically active.
In emergency situations call the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 depending on the severity of the incident.