Bites and rashes come with the territory when you spend enough time outdoors.
As the weather improves in the spring, people start getting the itch to get outdoors and soak up the valuable abundance of Vitamin D.
Plant life shows its gratitude for the sunshine as well, and the wilderness provides a vast menu of wild harvested selections.
However, as the berries ripen and the flowers bloom, poison oak and poison ivy put out fresh, waxy, toxic leaves. While the simple rule of "leaves of three, leave it be" applies, it's not an easy plant to identify, and even taking preventative action won't stop you from coming in contact with it.
Poison oak and ivy
While there is debate as to whether or not it's possible to possess or build up an immunity to poison oak and ivy, the best way to prevent getting a rash from it is to avoid it. When trekking through brush or wooded areas, it's helpful to wear long pants or socks, but the oils from the plant can stay intact within the material and still be able to cause an allergic reaction. It's also important to remember when walking a dog that the oils can transfer from their coat to human skin.
If you do come in contact with Poison Oak or Ivy, there are a few over-the-counter products that are effective treatments. Marie's Original Soap was originally developed by a native Oregonian from Grants Pass. It features a blend of all-natural ingredients that removes the oil and soothes irritation. The oatmeal on the surface of the bar provides sweet relief with a gentle but abrasive texture.
Tecnu also mades a wide range of treatments, from itch relieving calagel to their "extreme" scrub. The history of the product is based on removing radioactive dust from skin and clothing. Oregonian and chemical engineer Dr. Robert Smith was developing the product during the cold war when his wife discovered its use in removing the toxic plant oils from human skin.
The treatments all have different applications, but the scrub has a blend of ingredients that covers all of the bases. Although the list of ingredients is not as natural as Marie's Soap, the Albany, OR based products are used as a staple for outdoor first aid kits all over the country.
Hyland's makes a homeopathic dissolvable tablet that treats the rash and irritation, however an outdoor product created in Los Angeles is bound to invite skepticism. If a rash persists in spite of over-the-counter treatments, it's a good measure to see a doctor and ditch the homeopathic and chemical topical applications.
Summer also brings out biting and stinging insects. Mosquito larva hatch, filling the late evening air with flying vampires. While at the bottom of the food chain, they are the cornerstone of the diet of many wildlife species.
The internet is full of natural remedy cocktails that can be sprayed on the skin as an alternative to the common chemical deet, used in most bug sprays. However if you choose to apply some of these chemicals, it's a good idea to apply them to buff headwear (a versatile cloth that can be worn as a fabric mask) or clothing rather than directly on your face or skin.
Even with repellents, sleeves, pants and other coverings, some insects are persistent. Ticks take hold during the summer months looking for a host to sustain them. It's good to check your nooks and crannies under your clothing for these critters, but some of them are so small they are difficult to notice before they dig in.
If you do happen to host one of these parasites, keep in mind that just about everything you have heard about removing them is probably wrong. Touching them with a hot match or something of the sort will cause them to vomit into your flesh at the site, increasing the chances of infection.
Tweezers should be used to remove the tick just below the head with light, upward tugging, but no twisting. The remaining area should be cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Ticks do not grow back if you break their jaws or head off while they are attached to you. If this does happen, let the skin heal and reject the foreign object. If the bite develops a white ring or becomes inflamed and red, see a doctor.
There are a number of flying insects with stingers that are also a summertime buzzkill. Should you get stung by any of them, the treatments are pretty basic for any of these species. Remove the stinger with your fingernail or an object like a knife or credit card. Do not try to pinch the stinger to pull it out, as it simply releases more of the toxins into the body.
Remove any constricting items like watches or rings that will be more difficult to remove after swelling and ice the bite area. Itchyness and irritation can be treated with any anti-histamine allergy medication.
A wad of wet tobacco will act as an anesthetic, as well as constricting the blood vessels at the sting area so the venom doesn't spread. Keep in mind that honeybees are pollenators essential to providing the bounty of produce that feeds us and try not to disturb or eradicate these insects. In some areas, you can contact a local beekeepers association in order to have a swarm removed, often free of charge.
Now that you have some viable ideas for taking care of the minor hazards of the outdoors, you have zero excuse not to enjoy the woods, prairies, and beaches once the weather cooperates.