If bad comes to worse, you may find yourself out in the woods to hunt, fish, forage or even search for water. Being outdoors, however used to it we are, comes with several risks. Aside from dealing with hostile people, we have to deal with terrain, weather and last but not least, lots of biting, stinging, prowling creatures. Why is it important to diagnose the bites? Because without proper first aid treatment bites can be fatal. Sometimes, you may not have noticed being bit, but begin to feel unwell.
There are several categories of bites that you need to worry about.
- Spider bites. In the US we have a few common venomous spiders: the black widow, brown recluse and yellow sac spider. The issue with spider bites is that frequently the victim of the bite does not realize that he or she has been bitten. The bites don’t always present in the same way, but there are a few general guidelines you can follow. Examine yourself (or your patient) for topical swelling and redness. Frequently, spider bites look like other typical bug bites and you don’t always see the two bite marks. One bite that presents bite marks more often than others is the black widow bite that tends to leave two telltale incision marks. The bite of a brown recluse spider is unlikely to be felt, but will begin to swell and may form a black spot in the center.
- Snake bites. We have several venomous snakes here in America: cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, copperheads and coral snakes. If you have been bitten by a poisonous snake, you can usually tell by the fang marks and/or discoloration, moderate to severe pain, burning sensation and localized swelling. Venomous snakes store venom in their hollow fangs; therefore, two noticeable fang marks with redness around them are usually a sure sign that the snake was venomous. If you know you have been bitten by a snake, but not sure which one, assume it was venomous and try to get to a hospital if you can.
- Tick bites. While there are several varieties of ticks, the most dangerous are deer ticks because their bites can cause Lyme disease. Tick bites are typically easy to diagnose because the offender is attached to you. However, sometimes you may snag the body of the tick while the head remains firmly planted in your flesh. This puts you at risk for infections. Examine yourself frequently when you are outdoors and check for dark spots under your skin. Usually, if the body of the tick has fallen off, there will already be swelling around the bite.
- Mosquito bites. Mosquito bites are scary because mosquitoes carry viruses, such as malaria, yellow fever and west Nile virus. In the US, generally only West Nile virus is present and presents a real threat.
Other bites, usually less threatening, are bee and hornet stings and ant bites. The primary concern with stings is that they can cause an allergic reaction. It is advised that you locate the stinger and extract it because the severity of the reaction has been linked to the amount of time the stinger remains in the victim.
To prevent bites, wear protective clothing and hiking shoes, avoid hiking through tall grass and apply bug spray or a homemade bug repellant prior to heading outdoors.
To your survival,