Camping Hazards

Brown Recluse Spider

There are actually several species of “recluse” spiders. The one that is found most commonly in the eastern United States is Loxosceles reclusa. The adults are about 1/4-1/2 inch in length. The body may be tan to dark brown, making it similar in appearance to many other spiders, but the key characteristics of the recluse are the arrangement of its six eyes into three pairs, and the familiar dark violin or fiddle-shaped mark on the top of the cephalothorax (see picture). The “neck” of the fiddle points toward the rear of the body. Brown recluse spiders are nocturnal in their feeding habits. Outdoors, they are most common under rocks, debris, wood piles, etc. Indoors, common hiding places are bathrooms, attics, cellars and storage areas. Problems most often occur when people are accidentally bitten   by a recluse hiding in stored clothing, inside shoes/boots or cardboard cartons. The hands, underarms, lower abdomen and the ankles      are the areas of the body most likely to be bitten.

There are several spiders that closely resemble the brown recluse. Misidentification can cause unnecessary fear and anxiety. Click Here to view an article by Dr. Rick Vetter (U-Calif. Riverside) about recluse misidentification.

A brown recluse bite may go unnoticed for 3-8 hours, before the bite area reddens, swells and becomes tender. Blistering of the wound will start to appear. In some instances, a bite victim may become feverish and feel nauseous. A necrotic lesion (i.e., an area of dead skin tissue) may develop and require surgery. Although an antidote has been developed, it is not widely available and it appears to be most effective before the lesion develops. In some cases, antibiotics and the drug Dapsone may be used successfully to treat the bites without surgery, but these decisions are made after careful diagnosis by a doctor. Prompt medical attention is critical to successful chemical or surgical treatment of the bite.

Bee Stings

When bees or wasps sting a person, they inject venom through their stinger into the skin of the victim. Wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets have stingers without barbs that are usually retracted upon stinging, and these insects can sting people multiple times. The honey bee has a barbed stinger that remains in the victim’s skin with its venom sack attached. About 3% of people stung by bees and wasps have an allergic reaction to the sting, and up to 0.8% of bee sting victims experience the severe and life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Most people will have only a localized reaction to a bee sting. In the normal reaction to a bee sting, the skin is reddened and painful. Swelling and/or itching may also occur, but the pain usually disappears over a few hours. In the so-called large local reaction to an insect sting, the swelling, redness, and pain may persist for up to a week. Areas adjacent to the site of the skin may also be involved in the large local reaction.

In a systemic allergic reaction, the entire body is affected. The victim may develop hives, redness, or swelling at sites on the body distant from the site of the sting. Symptoms can also include:

In anaphylactic reactions, victims experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, and a drop in blood pressure that leads to shock if not treated promptly. Around 50 people are killed each year in the U.S. due to severe anaphylactic reactions to bee stings. These type of reactions usually occur within minutes of the bee sting. Since most people who have allergies to bee stings will have a worsened reaction to every subsequent sting, those individuals with bee sting allergies should talk to their doctor about taking special precautions, including carrying an injectable form of the drug epinephrine (used to treat anaphylactic reactions) at all times.

If you are stung by a bee:

  1. Call emergency medical services if you have a history of severe reactions to insect stings or if you experience any severe symptoms as described above.
  1. Determine if the stinger is still present (look for a small black dot at the sting site) and remove it immediately if is visible in the wound. Many doctors recommend using a hard object like a credit card or blunt knife to swipe over the area and remove the stinger. The honey bee venom sack, which remains in the skin of the victim, can take 2-3 minutes to release all of its venom, so prompt removal of the stinger can reduce the severity of the sting.
  1. Apply ice or cold packs to the area to reduce the body’s inflammatory response.
  1. Clean the area with soap and water, then apply hydrocortisone cream to the site to decrease the severity of the reaction. Alternative treatments include a paste made of unseasoned meat tenderizer and water (the enzyme in meat tenderizer can break down bee venom) or a paste of baking soda and water.
  1. Taking an antihistamine such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) in tablet form and/or nonprescription pain relievers such as ibuprofenoracetaminophen can also  provide relief of symptoms.

Stings in the mouth or nose, even in persons not known to be allergic to bee stings, also require emergency medical attention, since  they can lead to swelling that can interfere with breathing.


Conventional Burn Treatments

Treatment options are directly dependent upon the severity of a burn. First-degree burns and small second-degree burns may be self-treated with applications of cold water for a minimum duration of 10 minutes.  Afflicted areas of skin, in the severest of minor burns, are usually covered with both a sterile dressing and various topical corticosteroids or anti-infective ointments.  Medical attention is required when there is an accompanied blistering.  However, with attentive treatment and routine wound care, minor burns usually heal on their own within 2 weeks.

Conversely, severe burns, including chemical and electrical burns, require immediate medical attention. A third-degree burn that affects all layers of the skin may require surgical intervention.  Skin grafts and vascular or reconstructive surgery is probable. Severe burns are also treated with antimicrobial drugs, such as silver sulfadiazine and hydrolyzed collagen, to prevent skin and systemic infections.

Supplements helpful for Burn

Vitamin C
Vitamin C supplementation enhances immune function and promotes wound healing. In a clinical study, 37 burn patients were
randomly divided into ascorbic acid and control groups. The patients who were treated with high-dose ascorbic acid experienced
significantly reduced resuscitation fluid volume requirements, severity of respiratory dysfunction, and wound edema.

Supplementation with the amino acid arginine has been shown to increase the amount of reparative collagen during the wound
healing process. One study has even demonstrated a successful recovery of burn patients with arginine treatment.

Glutamine amino acid levels are often low in burn patients. Supplementation with glutamine can produce clinical improvement
in burn patients.

Zinc is an important component of our immune and enzyme systems, and also aids in wound healing and tissue growth. Zinc
serum levels are often low in burn patients. Topical application of zinc has been found to enhance wound healing. However,
supplementation with excess zinc can inhibit wound healing.

Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a succulent plant, which yields potent healing properties. Studies show that aloe vera leaf gel is an effective burn
and wound healing agent. Aloe can be applied directly on the wound in topical treatments, or be administered via ingestion
for not only wounds, but also gastrointestinal ulcers.

Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme complex derived from pineapple, can be helpful in healing burns and chronic wounds.
It may also assist in the degradation of scar tissue in certain wounds.

Poison Ivy / Oak

What causes the rash?

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are plants which cause an itchy skin rash when directly contacted. The rash is a true allergic response to an oil called urushiol found in the sap of these plants. This oil is a sticky, clear to slightly yellow, and odorless substance which turns dark on exposure to air. Urushiol oils from different plants vary slightly chemically from each other and occasionally individuals can be allergic to one and not the other. The urushiol oil is expelled by an injured plant and can be carried on the surface of objects, clothing, or animals that have come in contact with the toxic sap. These plants can also produce a toxic vapor when burned which can injure the lungs and windpipe (trachea) if inhaled.

Plant Identification

Poison ivy, oak and sumac plants producing urushiol belong to the biological family known as the anacardiaceae family. Most belong to the genus Toxicodendron (T) and several species are know in the United States. For example: T. diversilobumo and toxicarium (poison oak), T. vernix (the poison sumac) and T. radicans (poison ivy). Although these plants like to grow in moist, warm places, their geographic distribution is fairly widespread. They are unknown in Hawaii and northern Alaska. In general, poison oak grows west of the Rockies and poison ivy to the east. Poison ivy and poison oak typically have three leaves per stem, but may have more than three leaves. (So the old adage “leaves three, leave be” is not always correct!) Poison sumac has a longer stem with 7-13 leaves. These plants appear different depending on their location and the season. The toxic sap content is most abundant in spring and summer.

What is food poisoning?

Food-borne illnesses affect millions of Americans each year. Many persons who think they have the flu or a virus are really victims of mild cases of food poisoning, caused by bacteria and viruses found in food. Particularly vulnerable to these infections are young children, the elderly, pregnant women (because of the risk to the fetus), and persons with chronic or serious illnesses, whose immune systems are already weakened.

What causes food poisoning?

Most food-borne illnesses are caused by eating food containing certain types of bacteria or viruses. After a person has eaten these foods, the microorganisms continue to grow, causing an infection. Foods can also cause illness if they contain a toxin or poison produced by bacteria growing in food.

Several different kinds of bacteria can cause food poisoning. Some of the common bacteria include the following:

Salmonella and Campylobacter – normally found in warm-blooded animals such as cattle, poultry, and swine and may be present in raw meat, poultry, eggs, or unpasteurized dairy products.
Clostridium perfringens – may be present in raw meat, poultry, eggs, or unpasteurized dairy products, as well as in vegetables and crops that come into contact with soil. Infection may occur when soups, stew, and gravies made with meat, fish, or poultry are stored improperly or left unrefrigerated for several hours.
Listeria – mainly associated with raw foods of animal origins.
Staphylococci – occur normally on human skin and in the nose and throat. These bacteria are transmitted to food when handled.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) – found in the intestines of healthy cattle. An infection is caused by eating undercooked beef (especially ground beef) or unpasteurized milk.
Hepatitis A and other viral diseases may be passed through the hands of infected persons onto the hands of food handlers or into sewage. Shellfish and other foods which may have been exposed to sewage-contaminated water can transmit these viral diseases.

Botulism is a rare but deadly form of food poisoning caused by Clostridium botulinum, which is found almost everywhere, including in soil and water. Low acid foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, or vegetables, that are improperly canned may be breeding grounds for this bacteria.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

Unfortunately, most cases of food poisoning mimic gastroenteritis, and many people with mild cases of food poisoning think they have the “stomach flu.” However, the onset of symptoms is usually very sudden and abrupt, often within hours of eating the contaminated food. The following are the most common symptoms of food poisoning. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of food poisoning may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Treatment for food poisoning:

Mild cases of food poisoning are often treated as gastroenteritis, with fluid replacement and control of nausea and vomiting being the primary focus. However, in serious cases of food poisoning, hospitalization may be necessary.

How can food poisoning be prevented?

Thoroughly wash hands before handling food.
Wash hands after using the toilet, changing diapers, smoking, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Wash hands after touching raw meat, seafood, poultry, or eggs before working with any other foods.
Do not use wooden cutting boards for cutting raw fish, poultry, or meat. Plastic boards are easier to sanitize.
Thoroughly clean any surface or utensil after each use.
Cook poultry, beef, and eggs thoroughly before eating.
Do not eat or drink foods made from raw or under cooked eggs, poultry, meat, or unpasteurized milk, or other dairy products made from unpasteurized milk.
Wash all produce thoroughly before eating.
Avoid cross-contamination of foods by keeping produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods separate from uncooked meats and raw eggs.

Sun Stroke / Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia (abnormally elevated body temperature) with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms. Unlike heat cramps and heat exhaustion, two less-severe forms of hyperthermia, heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated.

The body normally generates heat as a result of metabolism, and the body is usually able to dissipate the heat by either radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. However, in extreme heat, high humidity, or vigorous exertion under the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat and the body temperature rises, sometimes up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Another cause of heat stroke is dehydration. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise.

The population most susceptible to hear strokes are infants, the elderly (often with associated heart diseases, lung diseases, kidney diseases, or on certain medications that make them vulnerable to heat strokes), and athletes, or outdoor workers physically exerting themselves under the sun.

What are heat stroke symptoms?

Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. Sometimes a person experiences symptoms of heart exhaustion before progressing to heart strokes. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and aches, and dizziness. However some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning.

Different people may have different symptoms and signs of heat stroke. But common symptoms and signs of heart stroke include:

How do you treat a heat stroke victim?

Victims of heat stroke must receive immediate treatment to avoid permanent organ damage. First and foremost, cool the victim. Get the victim to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool or tepid water to the skin (for example you may spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose), fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation, place ice packs under armpits and groins. Monitor body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees. Always notify emergency services (911) immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can give you further instructions for treatment of the victim.

The most important measures to prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated, and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather. If you have to perform physical activities in hot weather, drink plenty of fluids (such as water and Gatorade), but avoid alcohol, coffee, and tea which may lead to dehydration. Take frequent breaks to hydrate yourself. Wear hats, and light colored, and light and loose clothes.

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