Toxic plants, insects in western Massachusetts

FILE - This Monday, March 18, 2002 file photo of a female deer tick seen under a microscope at the entomology lab of the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I. Also called deer ticks, they were once found mainly in New England and pockets of the Midwest, but have been seen in a widening geographic range. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - From aggressive insects, to toxic plants, summer-time dangers could lurking right in your backyard.

The 22News I-Team discovered if you don't keep your eyes peeled, they could cause serious medical issues.

Dr. Joseph Schmidt is the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Medical Center. “Toxic bug bites and plants could potentially be life threatening for someone has severe reactions to certain things… bees are one of them, but to almost anything. It certainly can be life threatening, and it can happen rather quickly,” he said.

American Association of Poison Control Centers
Call (800) 222-1222
Available 24 hours everyday

While most bug bites, stings, and rashes are harmless, some can be dangerous if not treated properly.

According to the American Association of Poison Control, 740,000 people called poison control centers in the summer of 2015, and many of those calls were for plants, bug bites, and stings.

Bob Russell, an Entomologist for American Pest Solutions told the I-Team, one of the most dangerous critters is also one of the most common, ticks. “There are a couple of different diseases that have become problematic. Obviously Lyme Disease, and a new situation called Powassan, which is kind of encephalic, and will affect the brain,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Powassan infects the central nervous system, and can cause inflammation of the brain. The virus is rare, but many people infected never show any symptoms, which means finding and removing ticks, may be the only way to protect yourself.

Bugs aren't the only issue you have to worry about during the summer, plants can also be a major concern. According to the National Capital Poison Center, nearly 28,000 children were poisoned by plants in 2014.

UMass Extension Weed Specialist Randy Prostak told the I-Team that since poison ivy is the most widespread toxic plant in the region, it's also the most dangerous. “Poison ivy could be throughout the city of Springfield, in any urban setting.”

Prostak said most people develop a red, itchy rash when they touch poison ivy, but the same effect could also happen if you touch poison sumac, or wild parsnip. “That sap has a compound in it that causes photo-dermatitis, so once that sap gets on you in the sun, you break out in a blistering rash,” he said.

Dr. Schmidt said if you ever feel dizzy, lightheaded, have trouble breathing, or develop a severe rash from a toxic plant or insect, you should go to the emergency room.

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