It's summer again! Time to break out the hats and swimsuits and head out of town. Whether you're heading out to the sand and sea or simply communing with Mother Nature, it's best to be prepared against the little things that could turn a happy holiday into a horrible one. Folks vacationing at certain beaches should watch out for jellyfish, while those spending time in the mountains, woods, or even the garden should watch out for creepy crawlies like ticks and bees. Just in case you or your little one have the misfortune of getting bitten, here are some home remedies that will help wounds heal faster.
Being a tropical country, we Filipinos have to deal with mosquitoes the whole year round. Not only do their bites itch, but certain species also spread diseases like dengue and malaria. To prevent mosquito bites, one should apply insect repellent before stepping into mosquito-infested areas, even if it's your own backyard. Burning citronella oil repels the critters, as does growing marigold plants. But mosquitoes can be quite determined, and one will get a bite in sooner or later. To keep bites from itching, apply a paste made from baking soda and water and let dry. Aloe vera gel or the juice from inside an aloe vera plant’s leaves soothes bites as well. If you really must use something over-the-counter, applying calamine lotion over the bite will keep the itching at bay while it heals.
Jellyfish may look pretty, but some species leave a nasty bite. The sting actually comes from coming into contact with the long, venom-secreting tentacles that trail after the creature. Jellyfish stings are tricky because they can range from highly painful to downright fatal, depending on the type of jellyfish and the allergic reaction of the person stung. Either way, they’re a sure way to ruin one's vacation.
Symptoms range from a stinging sensation and raised welts to nausea, numbness and muscle spasms. If the person stung is very young or very old, has been stung in a sensitive area like the mouth, or shows symptoms of being stung by a poisonous species, seek medical help immediately. Otherwise, wash the stings in white vinegar, salt water, or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. Never use fresh water, as it will only activate the toxins in the remaining stingers, and do not urinate on the affected area, as it might cause infection. Remove any tentacles still attached using tweezers or something with a sharp edge, like a razor or a credit card. Make sure the stingers don't come into contact with your hands! The best way to prevent jellyfish stings is not to go into jellyfish-infested waters. Otherwise, having a first aid kit handy just in case of such an accident is your best bet.
BEE AND WASP STINGS
Like jellyfish, bee and wasp stings may be fatal, depending on the type of insect and whether the person stung has an allergic reaction to it. If the victim has trouble breathing or experiences nausea or general swelling, seek medical attention immediately. If the sting is confined to one area and is characterized by redness, itching, and confined swelling, remove the stinger with tweezers. Wash the site with soap and running water and apply ice to the area to relieve swelling. Apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. To avoid getting stung, keep away from hives and areas where the insects swarm. Avoid using strong perfume or carrying sweet drinks, both of which attract their attention. Wearing long pants and sleeves may also provide some protection.
Ticks are usually found stuck to pets, but they also live in densely wooded areas and can cling to humans as well. Not only are they tiny bloodsuckers with painful bites, ticks are potential disease carriers. Wear protective clothing such as thick socks, long sleeves, and pants when going into tick-infested areas. Wearing light-colored clothing also helps, as they make it easier to see any ticks that might stick to you.
Ticks bite by embedding their mouthpieces into their victim's skin and sucking blood until they become engorged. When bitten by a tick, gently remove the whole insect using tweezers. Don't twist the tick as you remove it because its mouthpiece is barbed and this may just cause more discomfort. If the mouthpiece breaks off, have it removed by a doctor. Once the tick is removed, don't crush it, as this will just spread its poisons. Instead, drown it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet. Clean the affected area with soap and running water. Topical antibiotic may be applied to help prevent infection. Observe the bite for a few days, and seek medical help if a rash or excessive swelling develops.
SUNBURN AND SUNSTROKE
While not an insect, sunburn and sunstroke can still be considered two of summer's biggest vacation spoilers. Both are caused by excessive exposure to the sun, but have different effects. Sunburn is easily preventable by the application of sunscreen (this should be done all year round, actually) before going out into the sun. If you plan to be out for an extended period of time, reapply sunscreen every two to three hours. For more information on sunscreen and SPF, check out FN’s guide to SPF.
Sunburned skin turns red and becomes extremely sensitive, sometimes even to clothing. Mild sunburn can be soothed with cool compresses soaked in one part evaporated milk and one part water and applied on the skin for 15 minutes. Cool baths and the application of aloe-based lotion can also help until skin gets back to normal.
Heatstroke is what happens when the body overheats, usually due to dehydration and exposure to extreme heat. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and weakness, and in some cases, disorientation and difficulty breathing. Prevent heatstroke by staying hydrated and avoiding vigorous physical activity in humid weather. Heatstroke victims should be placed in a shady area. Remove their clothes and cover them with a sheet dampened with cool water. Do not give the victims anything to drink until he or she has sufficiently cooled down.
It's never fun to think of all the things that can go wrong while on vacation, but being prepared makes a big difference just in case situations like these do come up.
(Photo source: sxc.hu—jellyfish, bee)