Warmer weather is pushing people to venture outside, and while the risk of running into a snake, bear or other threatening animal exists, much smaller creatures are far more likely to be encountered. In fact, many insects, such as ticks, mosquitoes, wasps and other insects, can accumulate a powerful bite or sting.
Keep bugs at bay
dr. Walter SchradingProfessor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Office of Savage Medicine in the Heersink School of Medicine at UAB, recommend using an approved insect repellent while wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts if you are outdoors in buggy areas. Products containing DEET are considered the most effective repellents, but picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil products are effective, comparable to lower concentrations of DEET.
Schrading offers these tips on using products containing DEET:
- Read and follow all directions and precautions on the product label.
- Keep DEET out of reach of children.
- To apply on the face, first spray the product on the hands, then rub on the face.
- Use only outdoors and wash skin with soap and water after going indoors.
- Check the label for the concentration of DEET. A product with a 25% concentration of DEET provides about six to eight hours of protection.
- Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Avoid excessive application of the product.
- DEET can be used in adults, children and infants over 2 months old. Protect infants from mosquito bites by using a baby carrier draped in mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a snug fit.
An option for use on clothing or tents is Permethrin. It is an insecticide, not a repellent, so it should not be applied to the skin.
In addition to wearing long sleeves and pants, using DEET spray can help prevent insect bites. (Getty Pictures)
Fight against ticks
The probability of getting Lyme the disease, a common tick-borne illness, is low in the southeast, Schrading said. Ticks in Alabama are known to carry the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, characterized by a flu-like illness, followed by a red, raised rash on the wrists or ankles. The best way to remove a tick, he said, is to grab the tick with tweezers as close to the surface of the skin as possible and pull it upwards with one easy motion. Wash the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Do a full body check after spending time in a potential tick environment. Ticks embedded for less than 24 hours are unlikely to spread disease.
Don’t get stung
“One of the biggest risks outdoors is bee or wasp stings, especially for people with severe allergic reactions,” Dr. Marie-Carmelle EliePresident of UAB Department of Emergency Medicine. “A severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can be fatal.”
She recommends people with a history of allergic reactions carry an epinephrine auto-injector, commonly known as an EpiPen, when camping or hiking. If anyone in the group has reacted badly to previous injections, a EpiPen This is the key. EpiPens require a doctor’s prescription and can be purchased at pharmacies.
Oh, for the serpents of God
Elie said the best way to avoid snakebites is to watch carefully for snakes in the woods or near rivers or streams, and to wear long pants and boots. She said the most important safety gear you can carry is a cell phone and your car keys.
If bitten, “get to the emergency room as quickly as safely possible, and that can often be accomplished by calling 911,” Elie said. “If possible, take a picture of the snake with the cell phone, but leave the snake behind. The last thing we need in a crowded emergency room is a snake, dead or alive.
She said emergency doctors didn’t need to see the snake. Some bites are dry with no venom injected or from a non-venomous snake. Bites from poisonous snakes such as copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths that inject venom will produce symptoms. The victim will have pain, swelling, and discoloration at the bite site, often with fang marks. Bites where no venom is injected will show no symptoms over a period of several hours of observation. Snakebites are usually not fatal; those at increased risk are the very young, the very old, and those with underlying health conditions.
Schrading said a good first aid kit is essential for anyone planning to spend time outdoors. Ready-made kits are available at outdoor stores, or they can be assembled from materials on hand. Include assorted dressings and basic medications, such as Tylenol, Benadryl, and aspirin. Albuterol will help group members who suffer from asthma or COPD. Include 1% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream, bendable splints, alcohol wipes, and cleansing agents.
He also recommends planning before heading out into the woods or mountains. Research the destination and know what to expect. Be aware of your group’s strengths and weaknesses. Who has allergies? Who knows CPR? Are there any special needs to take into account?
Appropriate clothing, rain gear, plenty of water and emergency supplies will help prevent an unexpected event from turning an outdoor vacation into a hospital visit.
“Common sense and a little thought before you venture out will help make your outdoor adventure one to remember,” Schrading said.
This story originally appeared on the UAB News Website.