To ensure that learning about stinging plants and insects remains fun, read books with the kids. Go on educational nature walks or visit nature centres, especially those with hands-on activities for the kids. Playing or walking through the garden doesn’t have to be a worrisome ordeal. Taking the time to teach kids how to avoid stinging plants and insects is your best defence to ensure everyone’s safety in the garden and beyond.
Most of us, including kids, are well aware of irritating plants, such as poison ivy. Coming into contact with these plants can result in a red, itchy rash. But did you know that other plants could cause problems too? In fact, some plants can prick, burn, or even sting and these too, can cause pain, swelling, and red rashes.
The dangers associated with stinging plants should be addressed, especially when you have kids in the garden. In order to teach kids how to avoid stinging plants, you must learn what plants grow in your area and how to identify them. After all, if you don’t know, how will the kids.
Remember, “when in doubt, check it out.” Show the kids what stinging plants look like so they can stay away from them in the garden and elsewhere. Teach kids to be aware of their surroundings, always looking around carefully before touching (or eating) any plant that hasn’t been safely approved by a parent, teacher, or other responsible adult.
Show them how to check for plants with spiny leaves or thorns such as cactus, rose or holly. The most common stinging plant is the Stinging Nettle. This plant is normally found in moist areas near creeks, damp woods, and sometimes in the garden if conditions are favourable. However, since there are different varieties, they may also have varying growing conditions, making it possible for them to pop up nearly anywhere.
Stinging nettle has fine, sharp hairs that resemble tiny thorns. These are found along the stem and underside of its leaves. Coming into contact with stinging nettle will cause a painful sting and occasional rash. Besides teaching kids how to recognise these and other potentially harmful plants, it also helps to periodically check the garden and other areas where children frequent to make sure it remains safe for them.
Although most stinging insects are harmless and only cause minor discomfort, there are some people, especially kids, that are extremely sensitive. In fact, just one sting from an insect such as a bee, hornet, or wasp can cause them to go into anaphylactic shock. This life-threatening condition causes the airway to swell, making breathing difficult.
For this reason, you may want to consider carrying an adrenaline pen for emergencies and learn how to use it. This counteracts the allergic reaction and can in effect save lives. The best way to avoid an emergency due to stinging insects is to teach kids how to recognise them, their habitats, and favourite hangouts as well as how to avoid them altogether.
Just as with plants, you and your kids should become familiar with common stinging insects in your area, as well as those that are not so common. Most of these stinging insects have bright colours and spiny bodies, which can inadvertently attract the curiosity of kids.
Make sure you keep a good resource book (with pictures) on hand so kids can recognize these potential garden hazards and avoid them. Pictures are a great way to teach kids what various stinging insects look like. You should also let them know where they are found as well.
Even though the majority of stinging insects are not aggressive, they will quickly turn that way if they or their homes are disturbed. Make sure the kids know not to swat at insects or disturb their nest sites. Instead, have them play statue, freezing up whenever stinging insects approach. Show them pictures of nests or hives and where they may be located.
Also, tell kids to avoid the favourite hangouts of stinging insects, such as near fruit trees. Stinging insects love fallen fruit. Avoid drinks cans and never leave any unattended. In fact, it may be a good idea to encourage all drinks, and even ice-lollies, to stay indoors unless supervised by an adult.
Another important prevention tip for kids is to avoid going barefoot outdoors. Make it a rule to keep shoes on. Many stinging insects, such as honeybees, can be found close to the ground going from one flower to another.
Tell kids to avoid wearing bright clothing like yellow, red, or pink. These colours attract stinging insects, as they resemble bright-coloured flowers in the garden. They should also avoid wearing perfume or other fragrant stuff that may also attract insects, as they are mistaken for fragrant flowers.