Now that you know all about summer safety from an ice cream/murder/accident perspective, let’s dig in to see what environmental nuisances there are out there as we settle into the dog days of summer.  To start…



My husband and I recently moved back from a 3-year stint Denver after spending our entire lives in the humid, bug-ridden Midwest.  There’s nothing like a return to living in the midwest for a stark reminder of just how many insects we have here in KC!  Most bugs are just a nusiance; however, there are some bugs that can affect your health in a major way.

    • Oak mites: these terrible microscopic mites fall from Oak trees (usually pin oaks) and bite within 10-16 hours of landing on you.  There’s no good methodology for preventing bites other than avoiding hanging out under oak trees (Note: the K-State Extension office recommends against burning oak trees, in case you were considering this method of pest control).  The only good news about oak mites is that they are not known to carry disease and (if you can avoid itching the bites) the bites resolve pretty quickly.  You can use an over-the-counter steroid cream like hydrocortisone for any itchy spots that are particularly bothersome; vigorous itching can lead to skin breakdown and infections, so try to avoid itching.


    • Mosquitoes: Kansas City is home to two different species of mosquito: the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus.  A. aegypti gained notoriety last year as the vector for transmitting Zika and is the worldwide menace that is responsible for the spread of Yellow Fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, among others.  The most prevalent mosquito-borne disease in the US is West Nile Virus, which usually causes mild flu-like symptoms (if any at all) but in rare cases can cause a debilitating inflammation of the brain.  As any good midwesterner knows, the best way to avoid mosquito bites is to stay indoors!  If that’s not possible, the CDC recommends insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535,  oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol to prevent bites in the first place.


    • Ticks: as small as a pinhead, these little guys are quite the nuisance.  Aside from being gross (they suck your bloodafter all), they transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, ehrlichiosis, among others.  The CDC has a great website detailing signs of infection, how to safely remove ticks, and areas of the country where certain ticks live.  Of course, the best treatment is prevention: avoid areas of high brush, treat clothing with permethrin or use insect repellent on your skin, and take a shower within a couple hours of returning from tick-infested areas to rid yourself of the buggers.


    • Bees & wasps: These insects are part of the usual thriving ecosystem and only cause serious problems when they sting someone who happens to be allergic to them.  EpiPens have been in the news for being outrageously expensive; however, there are some options out there that cut the cost dramatically.  Please let us know if you have a bee or wasp allergy, and we’ll help you get life saving epinephrine


    • Spiders: Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders are America’s venomous spiders and can be hard to avoid.  If you feel you’ve been bitten by one of these, let us know.  We’ll help you get the care you need.  


Poisonous Plants

Bugs aren’t the only things causing itching and rashes during the summer months.  There are a good number of pants that can be problematic as well; however, consider yourself lucky that we only have Poison Ivy as the main plant nuisance in this area (poison sumac, poison oak, and other thorny plants tend to be found in other regions).

Poison ivy can be a shrub, ground cover, or vine and can be identified by the simple rhyme “leaves of three — let the be!”  Contact with poison ivy causes a rash in the areas the plant touches (or in areas that you touched with hands covered in the plants’ oils).  The rash can be treated at home by washing all skin with soap to remove the plants oil then using an over-the-counter topical steroid. See pictures and learn more from K-State’s Research and Extension office.


Sunburns & Protecting Your Skin

Skin protection is important no matter your ethnicity!  For best protection, stay in the shade, used broad-brimmed hats, and keep your skin covered from the sun.  Your eyes need protection too to prevent against cataracts; make sure the sunglasses you use have broad-spectrum protection.  If you are going to have your skin exposed to the sun, make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, which you’ll have to reapply after getting particularly sweating or swimming.  


Sunburns, the acute effect of too much sun exposure should be treated by cooling the skin, using an aloe-based lotion, and taking over-the-counter pain medications as you see fit.  IF you have a more severe sunburn that has extensive blistering or systemic symptoms like fever, vomiting, or bleeding — get help right away!  Over many years of sun exposure, the risk of skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma rises.  Melanoma affects all skin types and makes up a little over 5% of all new cancer diagnoses.  Protect yourself!


Heat Stroke and Dehydration

Sometimes it feels like you can’t avoid the heat of summer.  It’s oppressive and inescapable, blasting like a furnace each time you open the door or step into your car.  Heat stroke and dehydration both can be deadly, so avoiding them by staying in cool areas where water is available is key.  If you must venture out, symptoms of heat stroke and dehydration include cramping, swelling of your legs, increased heart rate, fever, confusion, dizziness, and even passing out.  Don’t let it get this bad — take frequent breaks, check on elderly neighbors, and keep the water flowing.


Hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses are the first lines of defense against the sun’s harmful rays and the heat they bring on.