Hello again. In this blog I’ll be covering some of the common hazards faced while in the great outdoors such as exposure to poison oak or poison ivy and sumac, where you are in the lower 48 states depends on which of the three you will be more likely to encounter. I will also be covering common bites and stings and though not common occurrences, possible poison hazards and touching lightly on exposure illnesses from heat, cold and altitude.
If you are not familiar with Poison Oak, Poison Ivy or Sumac just click on the highlighted names and it will take you to Tec Labs poison plant identification page and it will show you a picture, brief description and where you may find it. It is important that you learn to identify these plants in order to avoid or minimize exposure. The surface of these plants are coated with an oil called Urushoil. This oil can cause an allergic reaction consisting of a red, itchy, blistered rash that tends to spread. (Usually a delayed reaction to oil already on the other parts of the skin.) The severity of this reaction can vary from person to person depending on their sensitivity to the oil (some people seem almost immune to it). The treatment is fairly simple. Immediately wash the skin with soap and water to get as much oil off the skin before it starts to react. Apply a layer of calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching and swelling as well as trying an oral antihistamine (allergy medicine). Wash all clothing and materials that came in contact with the plant. Avoid burning the plant as burning it releases the oils and cause you to inhale it. As with most inhaled toxins, remove yourself or victim from the source and get some fresh air. In case of a severe reaction of any inhaled toxin, seek professional medical help immediately.
Bites and stings. The most common bites you are likely to encounter in camping and hiking situations other than mosquito bites are bee stings, fleas, lice and ticks. Mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies and so on are rather minor and can be prevented or reduced with the use of sprays and ointments like deep woods off or certain sunscreens and repellents, use of protective clothing, nets and avoiding mosquito infested areas. Keep in mind that mosquito bites can transfer certain blood borne illnesses, though unlikely (approximately less than 1% chance), it’s better to be safe than sorry. Fleas and lice can be a nuisance and can be found on wild animals such ad birds and rodents, deer and so on. Pretty much any wild animal. These again can be prevented through the use of repellents and the like but most susceptible are your pets. Make sure they are protected with flea and tick collars when camping. Mainly, (especially if wearing sandals), you may notice flea bites on your feet or lower legs if they are present on the ground. repellent works well to keep them off. Apply repellents on your footwear and clothing. Ticks can be a bit more of a problem because they latch on and don’t let go. Click on the highlighted word to learn a little more about them. Ticks are known to spread disease and again the use of repellents can help avoid the problem. If you do happen to get a tick simply take your tweezers (if available) and grasp it as close to the skin as you can ( Ticks bury their heads into the skin) and with steady pressure pull the tick out. Clean and disinfect the area. Although rare, anaphylaxis reaction can occur with any insect bite, if so administer an oral antihistamine and seek immediate professional medical help. On a lesser side of the spectrum, if rash , fever, muscle aches accompany a bite, seeing a doctor if symptoms persist is probably the best thing to do. Bee, wasp Stings really hurt. Single stings are a little easier to deal with than multiple stings, but are treated the same way .First of all, Bee stings may cause anaphylaxis reactions more than other insect bites. If a person is allergic to bees administer an oral antihistamine immediately and seek professional medical attention. A bee sting causes redness and swelling around the sting , remove the stinger if it’s still lodged in the skin, gently clean with soapy water and antiseptic (this should help ease the pain and swelling), avoid scratching the wound to prevent secondary infection.
Poisonous bites. The most likely poisonous bites to be encountered camping, hiking and fishing are spider bites. Note that most spiders in North America are fairly harmless to humans. Spider bites in general are pretty much harmless to humans as they are meant to incapacitate very small insects or animals(most cant’t even pierce human skin), however there are some exceptions out there. Primarily your Recluses, Widows, Hobos and Yellow Sac spiders. Of these four types none are necessarily deadly to a healthy adult, but the venom can cause severe damage to your body internally and externally. Primarily your Recluses and Widows. Contrary to popular belief, most spiders are not aggressive and will avoid you at all costs. Most spider bites occur when spiders are surprised, humans are not their intended prey. Widow Spiders- Widow spider poison can be deadly to humans (note, only the females are venemos). While the bite may not be painful right away ( it may feel like a slight pinprick) the initial bite will show redness and swelling followed by a numb sensation. The venom is a neurotoxin and can cause weakness, large muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, elevate your blood pressure, anxiety, breathing difficulty and seizures. In the elderly, sick or young it may cause cardiac arrest. If bitten clean and apply ice to help with swelling and pain which lasts for a couple of hours or slightly more, it is recommended to seek professional medical attention. Recovery is generally about two to three days give or take depending on individual health. Recluses- Both Male and female recluses are dangerous. This particular bite cause cell and tissue damage. The bite itself, though it can be, is not initially painful and may not be immediately noticed. Typical spider bite symptoms like nausea, vomiting, chills, fever and headaches may occur. Blisters and redness around the bite within 6 to 12 hours will occur as the venom is a Necrotic venom meaning it attacks tissue cells. Large necrotic ulcers (an area of dying skin) may develop within 1 to 2 weeks. To treat the bite, clean with antibiotic soap and seek professional medical attention as soon as possible. Hobo and Yellow Sac spider bites are generally mild and the symptoms are similar to the bite of the recluse but heal quicker. Again, while these bites may not be immediately life threatening to a healthy adult, caution should be taken with the elderly, young and weak. Allergic reactions can occur. Seeking professional medical help is advised if symptoms persist or worsen. Scorpions- Only one type of scorpion in north america presents any danger. A small pale , yellowish scorpion typically found in Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico and are mainly a danger to young children or the elderly. Symptoms are similar to bee stings, pricking sensation, pain, redness , numbness and tingling and so on. Treat the same as any bite, clean bite with antiseptic soap and in the case of severe reactions seek immediate professional medical attention.
Snake! Well folks again snakes tend not to like human companionship much and generally will avoid you at all costs. Snakes bites occur when the snake is surprised or cornered. Humans and large mammals are not the intended prey of snakes and they are not out to get you. Snakes are cold blooded and seek shelter in warm spots when chilly and cool spots when hot, so they may invade your private spaces, though not on purpose, to regulate their body temperature. Not all snakes are poisonous. The simplest way to tell is the shape of a snake’s head. A non poisonous snake’s head is rounded at the nose and a poisonous snake is squared at the nose. Hold your hand out flat with fingers together palm down. If the head resembles that, then it’s not poisonous, now bend your fingers back at the fore knuckles and if the head looks like that then it’s poisonous. The exception would be the Coral Snake, but the coral snake is very easy to identify in that it’s very colorful with bands of red yellow and black. There is a King Snake which also has a similar pattern but the head is slightly different as well as the color sequence. In a King Snake (non poisonous) The head is mostly red with an elongated snout. The Coral Snake head (very poisonous) is black, with a short snout. On a coral snake, the ring pattern is red, yellow, black, yellow, red. In the case of a scarlet king snake, the ring pattern is red, black, yellow, black, red, or maybe blue. the easiest way to tell is if the red touches the yellow it’s poisonous, if the red touches the black it’s not poisonous. Red Touch Yellow – Kills a Fellow, Red Touch Black – Venom Lack. Yellow Touches Red – Soon You’ll Be Dead, Red Touches Black – Friend of Jack. With that out of the way, snake bites usually occur on the extremities (legs, arms, hands, feet) due to the reason that you may step next to or on a snake, reach into a bush or under a rock or anywhere a snake may be resting or hiding.
Your Coral Snakes have a venom known as Elapidae, this venom attacks the nervous system causing paralysis and respiratory failure. Seek Immediate professional medical help. Your Pit Vipers such as rattlesnakes, water moccasins, cottonmouths have a venom known as Crotalidae venom which affects the nervous system, heart, blood clotting, and tissue. Immediate professional medical help should be administered after a poisonous snake bite. Clean and disinfect the wound and apply a sterile dressing. (same with non venomous snakes) Immobilize and carry the victim if possible, keep extremities level but DO NOT elevate above the heart. Healthy adults are likely to survive a viper bite, they most like will become ill but will not die. Deaths usually occur from mistreatment by would be rescuers than the venom itself. Tourniquets, pressure bandages, incisions will likely cause more damage than good. In any event, keep the victim calm and try to minimise exertion as an increased heart rate will accelerate absorption of the venom.
Exposure injuries. Environmental exposure injuries are things like hypothermia, frost bite, altitude sickness and heat exposure. Thinking about this, they probably deserve their their own separate blog and I think I will do that. Please remember that My blogs do not go into much detail and are meant to give you basic information. I advise everyone to take a basic and or advanced first aid course as it comes in handy whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or not. Keep in mind most injuries while camping, hiking, fishing or any recreational activities are minimal, but it’s always good to be prepared. No need to rush out the first aid kit and go into full medic mode. The main thing is to enjoy yourself and have fun. Feel free to comment and add any suggestions or questions about anything you may read about in the blogs. Have fun!