Arthropods : Treating Bites and Stings
Arthropods may be fun, for some, to catch on camera, including me. I, however, don’t know anyone who enjoys getting stung or bit by one. The symptoms can be a painful sting for a few hours, or they can actually be life threatening for some. Arthropods are
spiders, scorpions, bees, wasps, fire ants, mosquitoes, etc.. As with almost anything, the best treatment is prevention. So let’s touch on that for just a bit.
The obvious prevention tactic is some form of insect repellant. Repellant that contains DEET is the bench
mark for most people, and most effective. That being said, there are countless posts on the internet right now, for “natural” or homemade repellents made with oils. While I will get more into oils in a later post, it is said that lemon eucalyptus oil works as well as DEET, as a repellant. There are several products out that are “natural” and with lemon eucalyptus oil.
BONE: WHEN USING SUNSCREEN AND REPELLANT TOGETHER, THE SUNSCREEN CAN WORK AS A CARRIER, AND THE REPELLANT WILL BE MORE ABSORBED. TRY NOT TO USE TOGETHER.
Another good prevention practice is to always shake out your clothing and sleeping bags before putting on or getting in. Always knock your shoes/boots together, upside down, before slipping your feet in. Thin, light weight long-sleeved shirts are fantastic. Buy them at Goodwill. They are cheap, they are already soft and worn, and it helps the workers! Probably my favorite preventative, when in the wilderness, and don’t have any of the above: cover exposed areas with mud! Hopefully you will have access to water at bedtime. 🙂
Even with our best efforts, sometimes the bites and stings happen anyway! OUCH! When you are done dancing around and spewing expletives, there are a couple of things you can do to help with the pain. If available, ice will help with pain and swelling. One of my favorite tools in my bag of tricks, for bites and stings, is called After Bite! I love this stuff and it takes the stinging away asap!
If you are looking for a more “natural” or chemical free product, you can research how to make a salve from tea tree oil. I will also have a post out this spring or summer, on the effectiveness of tea tree oil salves. I am just learning about how to use the oils in the wilderness. I will be making my own salve to test this week. One of the things that I really like about the tea tree oil, is it has antibacterial properties, and in the wilderness and on backpacking trips, where infections can be a challenge to deal with, this is a comforting.
If you are dealing with a sting, and can see a stinger at the site of the sting, try to pull it out. Before placing any “medicine” on stings or bites, clean site with the cleanest water available. At this point, observation of bitten or stung person is really all there is to do. Symptoms usually resolve with a bit of time; 1-2 hours, or so.
There are basically two spiders in North America that cause us problems; the Widow Spider and the Brown Recluse. Both of these bites are painless, initially. However, both bites can become a problem. With a Widow Spider, pain and anxiety may start as early as 10 minutes after the bite, but may take longer. If inflicted person starts having flu-like symptoms along with muscle cramps in back and stomach, they will need to seek medical care. With the Brown Recluse, blisters will appear hours after initial bite. Chills and a fever may develop, along with a rash. At this point, medical care is recommended.
While scorpion stings hurt, a LOT, in my practice in Emergency Room nursing, I never saw any severe reactions. While they can happen, I never saw it. All patients who presented with a scorpion sting were treated for the pain, and sent home.
Last but definitely not least, there is always a chance that someone may have a severe reaction to a bite or sting; anaphylaxis. This is an emergency. If a person who has been bitten or stung says their tongue “feels funny”, or their throat is scratchy, if available, give them Benadryl immediately. If symptoms do not resolve in 30 minutes to an hour, or if they get worse, seek medical attention. If person starts having a difficult time breathing and an Epi pen is available, use the pen, and get person medical treatment immediately. Not always, but usually, a person who is going to have this type of reaction, already knows they are highly allergic to such things. Ask any person that has been stung, if they have an Epi pen with them.
BONE: IF YOU CARRY AN EPI PEN, AND ARE GOING ON AN ADVENTURE WITH OTHERS, PLEASE INFORM SOMEONE IN YOUR GROUP, AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR ADVENTURE WHERE YOU KEEP YOUR EPI PEN.
A final thought I want to add is about ticks. When outside, and especially in areas where ticks are prominent, check for ticks often. It is also recommended to wear light-colored clothing when ticks are expected, as they are easier to see. Remove all ticks immediately after discovering. While there is no immediate danger, the longer the tick is attached, the more likely it is possible to be inflicted with disease.
I love to read your comments and chat! And please do share the post if you found it helpful!
*For those of you that do not know, I am an RN. I have practiced in an ICU/Emergency Room setting for the majority of my almost 12 years of being a nurse. I have completed my Wilderness Upgrade For Medical Professionals in 2016, with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). In an attempt to make wilderness medical situations/emergencies just a little less scary and/or confusing for those who don’t have medical training, I am going to periodically put out “Monday’s Medical Moment” posts. Posts will be for basic information only. Care and treatment by a medical professional is not to be replaced by this post.