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Health and Wellness Articles on Families on-the-go Magazine

Florida Critters: Poisonous or Not

Florida Critters: Poisonous or Not

By: Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, Northeast Pediatrics

Summertime brings us all outdoors, whether it be walking, biking, swimming, or playing.  Florida has many not so nice critters that we should know.  We will discuss few of the common bites or stings that we encounter and how to handle them.  For all bites or stings that have an allergic reaction, immediately call 911.  Allergic reactions will be difficulty breathing, heaviness in the chest, swelling of lips and tongue, difficulty talking or swallowing, feeling faint or nervous.

First, the common fire ant mound that we invariably step on when at the park will create an itchy pimple like red bump.  It will itch for days.  You should apply an ice wrap or baking soda to the site, give an antihistamine and apply anti-itch cream to the site.

Bee or wasp stings may have no evidence of a sting site or it may have stringer at the site. There will be pain and swelling at the site.  You must remove the stinger and clean the area.  Apply ice wrap or baking soda and give pain medication and antihistamines.

Spider bites are slightly more complicated because there are 2 spiders that are poisonous.  The black widow is a shiny black spider with a red hourglass shape on the abdomen.  Its bite usually leaves no mark, but symptoms like muscle spasms, vomiting, and headache may start.  You should clean the site, apply cool compress and bring to the nearest hospital for observation.  The brown recluse spider is brown with a dark brown violin shape on its back.  Its bite does leave a red ring around a blister.  Clean the site and go to the nearest hospital for observation.

Scorpion bites can be painful.  The Florida scorpion is not poisonous.  Clean the site, apply ice and go to a medical facility to get a tetanus booster.

Poisonous snakebites that occur in Florida are the pit vipers and the eastern coral snake.  The pit vipers are known for their large triangular heads.  They include the rattlesnakes, cottonmouth and copperheads.  If bitten, remove all jewelry and tight clothing near the bite, keep the involved extremity below the heart level, do not apply tourniquet or ice.  Do not try to suck out the venom.  Go to the nearest emergency room.  The eastern coral snakes can be mistaken for the nonpoisonous snakes.  Both have red, yellow and black colors.  Remember, Red touch yellow, kills a fellow, red touch black, venom lack.  Same first aid applies as the pit viper and must go to the nearest hospital.

Florida is home to many stinging caterpillars.  They have irritating hairs covered with poison.  The site will have a row of welts.  You need a apply adhesive tape to the site to remove the hairs, clean the site, apply cool compress and elevate the extremity frequently in the first 24 hours.

Remember the water creatures also.  Jellyfish and anemones will inject poison when touched.  The site will be red and swollen.  Never rub the site.  Immediately rinse with sea water, vinegar or alcohol.  Then apply shaving cream or flour to the remaining tentacles and scrape off with forceps or dull knife.  Stingrays, catfish, scorpionfish and lionfish have venom-coated spines that cause puncture wounds.  Soak the site in hot water (110 degrees) for 60-90 minutes to inactivate the venom.  Go to the hospital for tetanus booster and removal of any foreign body.

Remember, summertime is fun but be safe and knowledgeable of our little Florida critters.  More information can be found on the Florida poison control website.

Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, a Board Certified Pediatrician and active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, graduated from the University of Miami six year Honors Program in Medicine. If you have questions about this article or your child email Dr. Bhumi at  We are accepting new patients please call to get to know the doctor 526-PEDS

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