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Outdoor First Aid

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.

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Minor Wounds |
Heavy Bleeding |
Muscles & Bones |
Animal & Insect Bites |
Gastrointestinal Illness |
Dental Emergencies |
Environmental Threats |
Stay or Go: Calculating Your Risk |
Extreme First Aid |
First Aid Improv |
What to Pack |
Evacuate or Wait? | Risk Factors

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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