Enjoying the Outdoors
Do you enjoy the outdoors? My kids and I love being outside. We especially enjoy our hikes because it gives us a chance to explore and learn while we move around.
If you live in a rural area as we do, then you have plenty of wildlife and plant life to admire anytime you’d like. Camping gives you the perfect chance to unplug and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you plan to camp out or go on a hike, these tips are for you.
1. Watch out for ticks.
Ticks are an inevitable part of being out in the woods in Missouri. Tick bites do not usually cause an immediate reaction, but ticks are dangerous because they can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and other diseases that can cause long-term effects.
While camping, there are a few things you can do to lessen the odds that you’ll be bitten by a tick. First, use a repellent whenever possible. There is evidence to suggest that DEET-based bug spray is effective in keeping ticks at bay. To not only repel but kill any ticks you come in contact with, you can purchase permethrin-treated clothing, socks, and shoes. Permethrin is the same chemical used to treat nets to prevent mosquito bites in areas where malaria is a concern.
If you’d prefer to take a more natural approach, then there are a few things you can do to avoid areas ticks like the best. Stay in the sun for starters. Ticks can’t survive more than a few hours in the sun which is why they stick to densely shaded and leafy areas. Avoid areas where deer and other wildlife can be found frequently. Deer and other wildlife are like public transit to ticks. They jump on and eat a snack while they take a ride to an area which they wouldn’t normally be able to reach on their own.
At the end of the day, always check for ticks. If you’re wearing light-colored clothing, they’re easier to spot when they’re crawling on your clothes. But be sure to shower and check for ticks at the end of the day.
What do you do if you find a tick that is latched on? Grab a pair of tweezers. Use the tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin. Pull very gently to remove, then wash the area with soap and water. Put an antibiotic cream on the site of the tick bite, and put your tick friend in a locking plastic bag. Write the date on the bag as well as the area of the body from which you removed the tick.
Watch for a rash, chills, joint pain, or other flu-like symptoms. If any of those symptoms appear, seek medical attention and take your tick with you. The tick can be tested to see if it carries any harmful pathogens, either sealing a diagnosis or ruling out tick-carried illnesses.
2. Stay on the trail.
Whether you’re hiking or camping, stay in areas that have been cleared. Why? Because aside from ticks, there are plenty of plants out there that can make you itchy. If you’ve every had a reaction to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, then you know from experience it’s not something you’d like to repeat.
While the plants themselves aren’t poisonous, their oils, once transferred to skin, can cause an inflammatory reaction. The reaction produces raised, itchy bumps that can form little blisters. And the more you scratch the area, the more you spread the oil to other parts of your skin, producing the same results wherever you’ve touched.
It’s really hard to spot these plants too. Each plant looks different. Poison ivy, for example, isn’t an ivy at all. It also looks very different depending on the maturity of the plant. So your best bet for avoidance is to stay on the trail and away from plant life that isn’t obviously recognizable.
You can have issues with the oils from these plants all year round. Leaves do not need to be present on the plant for the oil to transfer to your skin. If you think you’ve been exposed, immediately wash the area with hot, soapy water. Choose a soap that is tough on oil because you need to remove the oil from your skin before it spreads through contact to other areas.
While you can’t treat the rash, you can calm the itchiness. Calamine lotion helps. If you have a severe reaction or the rash spreads over a large portion of your body, seek medical attention.
Another Reason to Stay on the Trail
In addition to things that make you itch, you’ll find critters off the trail you might not be so excited to see. Snakes, especially, are my least favorite visitor. No matter the type of snake, you should leave it be and back away if you encounter one.
While snakes most enjoy sunny areas (they use the sun to stay warm and help them digest their latest catch), they also have little hideaways where they go to cool down when the sun gets to be too hot. Those hideaways can be anywhere. So watch where you step very carefully.
By staying on the path on in a cleared area, you’ll have a better chance of spotting any snakes or other critters.
What do you do if you get bitten by a snake?
First, stay calm. Try to take a photo of the snake if you can safely do so. That photo can be used to identify the type of snake so medical professionals will know if is venomous or nonvenomous and offer proper treatment. Next, seek immediate medical attention. If the wound is bleeding, cover it with a clean, dry piece of cloth. Remove any clothing, jewelry, socks, shoes, or any items in the area. Expect swelling. Keep the portion of the body that was wounded below your heart if possible.
There are many things you definitely shouldn’t do, though, that are popular myths. Those things include:
- Do not try to suck the venom out of the bite.
- Do not flush the wound with water.
- Do not apply ice.
- Do not apply a tourniquet, cut the wound, or attempt to remove the venom in any way.
Stay calm and get help.
3. Be prepared.
The best thing you can do is have a fully-stocked first aid kit with you. Be prepared for itchiness by bringing Benadryl and calamine lotion. Be prepared for sprains and falls with instant ice packs and bandages. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
If you haven’t taken a CPR or first aid class yet, now’s a good time.