The sun is shining, school is out and you’re headed to the great outdoors. But whether it’s a mountain cabin or a lakeside retreat, summer vacations often come with a few hazards, such as poison ivy and poison oak, bees, bugs and snakes.
Few of these hazards cause a serious reaction, but when they do, seek medical attention or call 911. If you or anyone in your family has had a severe allergic reaction to any of these things in the past, be sure to carry epinephrine to respond quickly and ward off serious effects.
For the rest of us, there are a few tried and true ways to deal with these common problems:
• Poison ivy or poison oak: Many people develop a rash after coming into contact with these plants. The rash comes from an allergic reaction to the oil in the plants, so if you know you’ve been exposed, immediately wash the affected area. The usual symptoms are itching, redness where the plant brushed the skin, small bumps or hives and blisters. Apply a wet cloth or soak the area in cool water, and use calamine lotion to help relieve itching. Also, be sure to immediately wash any clothing, sporting equipment or other materials that came into contact with the plant, because they too could be touched by the oil.
• Bug bites and bee stings: Most bug bites are harmless, but the affected area can be red, tender, swollen and itchy. For stings, if the stinger is still in the skin, gently scrape a flat-edged object, such as a credit card, across the skin to remove it. Wash the bee sting or bug bite area with soap and water and cover with an ice pack for 10-20 minutes to reduce pain and swelling. Calamine lotion or a paste of baking soda and water can be applied several times a day until the pain and itching are resolved.
• Snake bites: Snake bites need to be taken more seriously, particularly because our region is home to venomous rattlesnakes. To identify a snake bite, look for two puncture wounds surrounded by swelling and redness. Snake bite victims will feel pain at the bite site and could experience more serious symptoms if they are having an allergic reaction or if the snake was a rattlesnake. Generally, you should keep a snake bite victim still and seek immediate medical attention. Do not use a tourniquet, cut the snake bite or attempt to suck the venom out by mouth, as these methods tend to do more harm than good.