Burns And Bites

By Chelle Cordero

February 6, 2009 5 min read


Dealing with these pesky problems takes preparedness

Chelle Cordero

Creators News Service

From backyards to mountain peaks, the great outdoors holds plenty of surprises. What you don't want to be surprised with are nasty insect bites, poison ivy rashes, sunburns and sprains.

Bugs can ruin a fun family outing. There are two main categories into which these bugs fall. Insects that feed on blood from animals and people are known as "biters," and include mosquitoes, fleas, biting flies, ticks, spiders and most ants.

Those that use stings are "stingers," and they are used as a defensive weapon. Most often insects in this category sting because children or adults have trespassed into their territory. The most common ones include bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and fire ants.

Mosquito bites are annoying, itchy and may carry diseases such as West Nile virus. "To protect you and your children from mosquitoes, stay away from wet areas where they breed and use insect repellent containing 10 to 20 percent DEET or Picaridin on skin not covered by clothing," said Dennis Ownby, an allergist and immunologist at MCGHealth Children's Medical Center in Augusta, Ga.

"When you use DEET on kids, I recommend a sustained release formula that lasts about six hours or more. Picaridin, an alternate repellent, must be reapplied every couple of hours. You must reapply DEET or Picaridin after swimming, since these chemicals wash off in water."

Ticks can be even more dangerous. "Tick bites can lead to Lyme disease, a serious condition that can affect the skin, joints, heart and nerves," said Melissa Babcock, president and founder of Babcock Dermatology in Atlanta. "Protect yourself by wearing long sleeves and long pants. If you see a tick on your body, remove it with tweezers. [If the mouthparts remain in your skin you may need to see a dermatologist for removal.] The rash of Lyme disease [appears] in 75 percent of adults and consists of a red ring with a lighter center that forms around the tick bite.

"If you develop this rash you should see a dermatologist immediately. It is easily treated in its early stages with antibiotics."

Learn what poison ivy, oak and sumac look like and when walking in dense foliage, wear long pants tucked into socks. Roy Scribner, the owner of campingblogger.net from Morgan Hill, Calif. said, "When the kids and I have been hiking through a particularly infested area, I like to collect everybody's clothes in a large garbage bag so that nobody gets secondary reactions from the urushiol oil that may be present on the clothes."

To avoid sunburn, Lisa Jones, a community burn educator for The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J, advised to stay out of direct sunlight during the midday sun when rays are strongest, make sure that you reapply sunblock every few hours, especially after swimming, and to apply sunblock even under clothing since the sun's rays can penetrate clothing.

For jaunts beyond your backyard or local park, a little bit of preparation and what you pack can go a long way.

"If you are a family of four planning a picnic at a lake that's two miles down a well-groomed path, preparations to ensure a safe, fun day will be different than those needed to arrive at a 14,000-foot apex in time for daybreak," said Boulder, Colo. writer Esmaa Self, an avid outdoorswoman. "Items to pack along with the sandwiches for your picnic include an area or trail map, compass, at least a quart of water per person, a campers' first-aid kit, pocket knife, comfy yet sturdy shoes, a wide-brimmed hat, flashlight or headlamp, extra clothing, sunglasses, waterproof matches, sunscreen and bug repellant."

Self's favorite information forum is www.14ers.com, which also includes a list of gear and safety precautions.

Enjoying the outdoors, according to Alice Hohl, co-chair of the Leave No Child INSIDE Central Ohio Collaborative in Columbus, Ohio, is necessary for continued all-around good health. "Indoor lifestyles are costing us our health and our happiness," she said. "If you don't believe it, look up all the new studies showing how much a walk in the park can improve test scores or ease attention disorder symptoms."

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