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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

The Ultimate First-Aid Manual: Animal & Insect Bites

Though we love backcountry wildlife (well, mostly), sometimes we get no love back. Read up on what to do when Mother Nature bites.

by: Buck Tilton

(Photo by
(Photo by

The Ultimate First-Aid Manual
Wilderness Medicine Institute cofounder Buck Tilton boils down a lifetime's worth of experience into 62 tips

Photo Tutorials: First Aid Center
From splinting a broken leg to duct taping a bloody wound, the BACKPACKER First Aid Center is an invaluable resource for backcountry first aid.
Bees and Wasps
If the stinger remains in the skin, remove it immediately. Apply a cold pack for pain and swelling, and give an oral antihistamine. If the patient has an allergic reaction–difficulty breathing, tightness of the chest, swelling of the throat, dizziness–give a dose of injectable epinephrine (prescription required) and the antihistamine. Evacuate to medical attention ASAP, keeping a second dose of epi on hand and giving more antihistamine every four to six hours.

These bloodsuckers can transmit disease if allowed to embed in the skin (sometimes a few hours is all it takes), so check yourself twice a day. Found one? Remove it immediately with tweezers. Grasp the tick at skin level, perpendicular to the long axis of the tick, and pull it gently straight out. Wash the site. If illness and/or an unusual rash develop, consult a doctor.

Venomous Spiders
Black widow bites can be tough to diagnose (many victims don't feel the bite when it occurs). Look for vomiting, weakness, headache, fever, and intense abdominal and/or back pain. Brown recluse bites might sting or itch. For both, clean the wound, apply cold to the site, and give the patient an antihistamine (for itching) and ibuprofen for pain. Hike out to a doctor (don't worry: death is rare).

Venomous Snakes
First, keep the victim calm (a low heart rate minimizes venom circulation, and death from snakebite is unlikely). Remove jewelry, watches, and any snug clothing that could cut off circulation when the bite site swells. Splint the bitten arm or leg, but do not elevate it. Carry the victim out if you can; otherwise, have him slowly walk out for a dose of antivenin.

Stop the bleeding. Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Rinse clean, cover with a sterile dressing smeared with antibacterial ointment, and find a doctor ASAP. These bites have a high risk of infection, including rabies–and in that case, the victim needs a vaccination within 72 hours for the best chance of survival.

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Feb 14, 2012

FuCk you all ! FuCk your Self

Feb 14, 2012

FuCk you all ! FuCk your Self

Jan 07, 2011

For an insect sting where the stinger is intact dont try to pull it out with your fingers or tweezers instead scrape it off with a credit card or something similar. This keeps you from squeezing the rest of the venom in you. In any of these cases its not going to hurt to go ahead and crack out the benadryl right when it happens to try and stem off part of a reaction ahead of time before its too late. Im an EMT so I have played this game before.

Dec 16, 2010


Nov 18, 2010

Saw a reptile specialist talking about snake bites and he suggested, if you have a pen, circle the bite area and write the time down. Then, when you get to the hospital they can get an idea of how severe your reaction is based on the amount of swelling and the elapsed time. I don't know how that would affect treatment, but it seemed like a good idea.

Florida Native
Aug 17, 2010

It's not covered above, but fits in this topic --
Best thing I've ever found for mosquito and ant bites is plain baking soda disolved with water into a paste. Put it on the bite and let it dry. I tend to get a heavy alergic reaction to ants and mosquitoes if untreated, but with the baking soda, in 5 minutes, I'd never even know I'd been bit. I don't know why it works - either neutralizes the poision or absorbs it out, or maybe some of both, but it does work. Learned this trick from my grandma (an outdoors pioneer woman if there ever was one).

Jun 28, 2010

Don't use alcohol or hand sanitizer to cover the tick. You may cause the tick to regurgitate what is inside its stomach before backing out. Use a sharp pointed tweezers (not chisel pointed) to pull tick. You can also find special tick pullers that slide between skin and tick body. They are easy to use and work well.

Jun 25, 2010

I too am a Chick Magnet. Last year I had over 2 dozen ticks removed from my hair, clothes and skin during a single hike. I intentionally let one start to burrow into my arm to test a new idea. My scoutmaster used to use cooking oil to cover the tick so it would back out of the skin in search of oxygen before it died. That was over 30 years ago and was a disputed technique. Since the invent of gel hand sanitizer I have been carrying a small travel size in my pack. This provided a perfect chance to test my theory of the alcohol increasing the ticks desire to back out. Within seconds of covering it, it started squirming to get out of the goo. I think the combination of the stinging from the alcohol and the lack of oxygen is perfect. More benefits - no tick parts left in the skin and your disenfecting the site as well!

Michael Silverberg
Jun 25, 2010

I have more experience with ticks than I'd like - my wife calls me a "tick magnet"! I have not found tweezers that easy to use correctly and one often leaves the head in. What does work, I've found, is the "TickedOff" device ( which is pretty much foolproof. BUT I also think that a very good pair of fine tweezers is a great thing to have with you for splinters, thorns etc. Those "tweezers" on multitools and Swiss Army knives are useless and being out in the wilderness for days or even hours with a splinter you can't get out is nasty!


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