There are two major warnings that I want to warn you about for your child playing in the parks and gardens here in Firenze and Italy. Located in these places are a plant and insect with problematic hairs on them. These are a major do not go near or touch for your child.
The first is Ortica (stinging nettle). It is a plant that if touched will burn like a jellyfish. I had totally forgot to remind my nephew not to touch them and at one point, he comes over crying because he was burning from touching this plant. I feel bad because he is a child that loves to touch nature, plants, bugs, trees etc.
The burn does go away after a while but it will take some time. The entire area can have a bloated look with inflammation surrounded by a red halo. The itching, burning, pain, and irritation can be quite intense but can vary from person to person. This is one plant. If your child rolls in a bunch of it or walks in it with shorts, he/she will be in horrible pain. Now, I know you can eat this but you need to collect it with gloves and cook it before using in foods.
If your child does touch Ortica, try not to touch or rub the affected area for 10 minutes. Immediately pour cold water on the skin without rubbing it with your fingers. Best is to keep any bare skin away from the area to prevent spreading and irritating the area more. Although the pain can be intense in the first few minutes, do not touch or rub to prevent painful sensations that can cause trouble for days. Then wash with soap and water to remove the chemicals released from the plant that is causing the pain, swelling, redness, and itching. In many cases, once the area has been washed, the pain should go away completely or at least reduced a lot. Use a clean cloth, if you do not have water and soap on hand, and gently remove dirt and debris from the area. You can also apply adhesive tape (not sure this will work on little children); this is to pluck the little hairs off the infected area of the skin.
The Lapazio (Dock) plant, which usually grows in the same area as Ortica, is stated as quick balm to put on the infected area caused by Ortica. Lapazio plant has leaves are very large, oval and with rounded tips. The leaf of Lapazio has a wave-shaped edge with the lower leaf having a reddish color at the stem section. If you see this plant nearby and know it is Lapazio, you should grind some leaves and apply to the affected area. If your child has plant allergies, I would not use this on them.
The next is the Pine Processionary Caterpillar (processionarie) seen around March to June. This caterpillar reminds me of the tent caterpillar from my home in NJ that I used to collect in a jar and wait until it hatched into a moth. Unfortunately, though they are in the same species, they are not the same when it comes to collecting caterpillars. This particular tent caterpillar will line up when walking in a long row. They look harmless but they are anything but and those little hairs on them will generate a big rash and eye irritations if touched. These hairs can be found also off the caterpillar in the leaves and grass around where they walk. If your child is allergic to them, they will have an allergic response of cough, difficulty breathing, and bubble blisters on arms and/or hands. If your child touches one of these, you should apply the same steps as above with Ortica except the Dock. Wash with soap and water and do not touch the area with bare hands. Then call your doctor to get any further treatments. If your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction, take them to the emergency room immediately.
It is best when your child is young to show pictures or even the real live thing mentioning very strongly to not touch them that they will feel pain. It worked really well with my children. They recognized it immediately and mentioned it to you when they see them.
****On a side note: these are also a big problem for animals so keep an eye on your cat and dogs.
Recent News article on children in Hospital Meyer because of the Processionary caterpillar
Processionary Caterpillars photo: