With the first day of spring comes the promise of longer days, flowers in bloom, and the first robin of spring. But before we get a chance to revel in the end of winter, the "stings" of the spring season are already upon us in a variety of forms.
As the weather warms, it's not just people who become more active outdoors, but ticks, bees, even rattlesnakes will all be out enjoying the sunshine. And they will not suffer from hay fever. But no matter how bad the pests or pollen, spring weather can be enjoyed with a few precautionary measures and through the aid of a little anti-histamine.
To help with the transition from frost to flowers, we created a list of the top seven "stings" of spring.
If you have allergies don't stop to smell the roses or an elm tree for that matter. Allergists break down the worst outdoor allergy offenders into three main groups: trees, grasses and weeds. For spring it's the trees that are the main culprit of pollen in the air. As the weather warms maple, cedar, oak and elm trees send out billions of microscopic pollen grains making allergy sufferers miserable. Neil Kao, an allergist in South Carolina, recommends taking allergy medication before symptoms start in order to lessen and delay the worst allergy symptoms. "Once the landslide starts, you can slow it down, but it's very hard to stop it," said Kao, who is also a station head for the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center.
As the trees start to bloom, bees will be out in full force collecting nectar for honey. To avoid being stung the National Institute of Health recommends avoiding floral perfumes, dark colored clothing and drinking sugary beverages while outdoors. At the very least, double-check your Diet Coke for an errant yellow jacket when enjoying a picnic.
|The Pollen Season Overlap|
While spring is traditionally the season where trees are the cause of many allergy sufferers' misery, excessively warm temperatures mean grasses can start flowering earlier too. The double whammy of flowering grasses and trees that is more common in warmer southern states, can make those allergic to pollen feel like hibernating until next winter. To avoid being incapacitated by hay fever Kao recommends allergy sufferers wash their face and hands as soon as they come indoors to avoid bringing pollen into the house. In addition Kao recommends that allergy sufferers take a shower before bed so they don't end up sneezing all night due to pollen on their pillowcase.
Some of the hardiest pests are also the smallest. Even after a severe cold snap, ticks can thaw out with the snow and attach to a passing dog or hiker. Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist affiliated with Harvard University, says as the weather warms ticks will start to migrate out in search of a meal.
"When it's warm enough to go outside, it's warm outside for those ticks to become active and wait for animals to come by," said Pollack. In addition, Pollack says tick "nymphs," which hatch in early spring, are particularly dangerous since they are smaller than fully-grown ticks and can be harder to spot. The Center for Disease Control recommends walking in the center of hiking trails, using bug repellents with DEET and doing a full body tick check after venturing into the wilderness.
Mosquitoes have been around for millions of years, and show no signs of dying out any time soon. No matter how severe a winter season, Pollack says certain mosquito species will quickly arrive as the weather warms. As ice thaws, some mosquito larvae that were frozen can basically "come back to life" and hatch as long as the weather permits it. The CDC recommends avoiding the outdoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and wearing bug repellent with DEET to avoid getting bitten.
In the desert, the daily pests of spring aren't just limited to buzzing or crawling insects. Warming weather in the southwest region of the country means more rattlesnakes will be on the move, showing up usually around dusk or early morning in search of food. To avoid snake bites Nate Beason, a serpent curator at the Phoenix Herpetological Society, recommends always looking where you put your hands or feet and be extra careful while picking up newspapers in the morning as rattlesnakes will occasionally enjoy laying out on a warm driveway.
|Leaves of Three|
Those interested in adventuring into the great outdoors during spring should be on the lookout for the traditional "leaves of three" poisonous plants that include poison oak, poison sumac and poison ivy. The irritating rash that can be one of the more unpleasant reminders of a hiking trip gone wrong is caused by the plant's oily sap. The NIH recommends being able to identify and avoid the plant and washing skin and clothing directly after contact.