Living close to nature, like in forests or on farms, exposes you to many unpredicted circumstances which can create inconvenience, and sometimes even life-threatening conditions. Campers and many travelers encounter circumstances. Of course, most of these happen in Spring or Summer when we tend to be outside and active.
Each situation has its own dynamics and risks. Generalizing is impossible, so this description segments them into the most common conditions. Obviously, prevention is most important. Avoiding going barefoot, wearing repellants, and checking the body for problems.
eRemedies found at eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/ are good first interventions, but always serious snake bites or severe spider bites should be evaluated in a medical facility when available.
Bites and stings are almost always puncture wounds, so there are some general considerations. They apply as well to puncture wounds from a nail or even a gunshot wound.
A deep puncture wound penetrates several layers of tissue:
The challenge with this type of wound is two-fold: Bacteria can be carried deep into tissue with the puncture, and the wound closes off quickly. Bacteria that cannot live without oxygen die, but there are many (called “anaerobes”) that thrive in no-oxygen environments. They often live in soil, which makes stepping on a nail dangerous.
At one level, an abscess can form, where bacteria or foreign bodies (stingers, stickers, etc.) get walled off by the body in order to protect against more generalized infection.
In this case, the idea is to draw the bacteria and/or foreign bodies to the surface, so it can drain. Applying hot packs helps the process by drawing circulation to the region; the immune system aids the walling off and draining process.
One of the most effective treatments is Ichthammol (one brand in the US is Draw Out Salve). This is a thick tarry substance made of concentrated seaweed. It is very high in protein and has a very strong osmotic pressure that pulls the bacteria and foreign substance to the surface. The way to use it is to make a thick (1/4 inch) layer over the abscess, cover it with gauze, and leave it on for two or more days. Once the abscess points and starts draining pus, ordinary gauze without Ichthammol can be used.
A similar treatment in many countries utilizes clay applications.
Finally, there are eRemedies that can help abscesses drain, to be found at eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/.
One dangerous situation can occur if no abscess forms and the area becomes bright red with generalized swelling. Sometimes red streaks may develop moving up the extremity or generally toward the heart region. This represents a serious infection called “cellulitis.” Antibiotics are definitely needed in this situation, because if the bacteria get into the blood stream, the generalized infection can be fatal. This situation definitely requires medical intervention.
Another dangerous situation arises if the wound is infected with an anaerobic bacterium called Clostridium tetani. This organism lives in manure-laden soil, like in farms. It produces a toxin that causes tetanus, a usually fatal neurotoxic condition causing convulsions and arrested breathing. It is commonly called “lockjaw” because of spams of the masseter muscles that clamp the jaws shut. This is a horrendous situation to observe. It would not be recommended to try to rely on eRemedies for this condition. Hospitalization is absolutely necessary; even that may not succeed.
Human and Pet Bites
Ironically, the worse of these bites is the human bite. This is because human mouths are more enclosed and thus contain more bacteria. Whenever there is a human bite, the load of bacteria is high, so infection is a high risk
Dog and cat bites are common amongst pet owners, of course. These may represent puncture wounds or sometimes there is tearing of tissue. Infection can occur, but the incidence is much less than human bites.
If extensive enough, the wound needs to be sutured. At the very least, the wound should be cleaned with soap and water and perhaps alcohol (say, Vodka), then covered to prevent infection.
If infection does develop, it may form into “cellulitis,” which is a generalized spread of bacteria through local tissue. It can even get into the blood stream and spread throughout the body.
Cellulitis needs to be treated with antibiotics, preferably after acquiring a “culture and sensitivity” – a growth of the exact bacteria so that it can be identified, and then testing it against a variety of antibiotics to determine which one(s) will work. This requires a medical facility, of course. This should become a priority, however, even in areas with limited facilities; cellulitis can be life-threatening.
An eRemedy from https://www.eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/ can help while getting to a facility, but it should not be used as an alternative. Antibiotics are crucial.
Most non-cellulitis bites can be treated in the same way as described under the section on Puncture Wounds.
Bee and Wasp Stings
Most of the time, we live in peace with bees and wasps, but occasionally they get disturbed and sting. Bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets all have venom sacs attached to their stingers. Bees have a prong on the stinger, so it is left behind when the bee finally flies away and dies. This is not true of wasps and other stinging insects.
These venoms have a small amount of neurotoxin. When there is no predisposing allergy, the local area becomes red and swollen, and may burn intensely. If many stings have occurred, the dosage can be such that there are more systemic symptoms – nausea, vomiting, intestinal cramps. The general symptoms pass within a few hours, though the local swelling may persist for a few days.
With bee stings, you want to get rid of the remaining stinger that still contains venom. Scraping firmly with a dull knife like a butter knife will pry the stinger and sac out. Otherwise you can use tweezers to carefully remove it. Then, and for other stings, apply ice to reduce inflammation and swelling.
If you have scratched the wound and might have produced infection, applying Calendula tincture directly to the wound can help treat it. Otherwise, Ledum tincture can be applied to accelerate healing.
Of course, a properly chosen eRemedy at eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/ can alleviate all these symptoms and accelerate healing.
Now, some people are actually allergic to bee stings, and yellow jacket or wasp stings as well on occasion. You know from past experience if you are one of those, because you have had an adverse experience. An eRemedy can be taken, but additional measures should be taken – Benadryl or other antihistamine, and epinephrine injection. These will help against “anaphylaxis,” a shock-like condition where the throat swells and closes off, respiration can be arrested, and collapse into unconsciousness may occur. This is a serious emergency, so immediate action should be taken and then getting to a medical facility as soon as possible if available.
Jellyfish stings can be considered similar to bee and wasp stings. The prongs are much smaller, so the effect is not as deep or dangerous. But jellyfish stings can produce a very intense local reaction of fiery burning, severe itching, redness, and swelling. Applying vinegar right away seems to help counteract the severe itching. Applying ice is appropriate in this instance as well. If available, apply Urtica urens cream can alleviate the discomfort considerably. And eRemedies do specifically help in jellyfish stings (found at eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/.).
Snake and Scorpion Bites
In many regions of the planet, snakes and scorpions are a threat. These animals will try to avoid contact with people, so walking noisily and warily is decent prevention, along with wearing high boots when possible.
Not all snakes are poisonous, so trying to be familiar with snakes in the area is a good idea. If you are bitten, it is good to kill the snake so you can bring it to a medical facility for identification of the proper antivenom to be given.
Scorpion stings are usually not too serious, so applying ice to the area might be good enough. Occasionally, a scorpion sting might be deep enough to have a neurological influence. This would be nausea, vomiting, intestinal cramps, muscle cramps elsewhere in the body, and sometimes difficulty breathing and even seizures. In such a case, getting to a medical facility would be imperative, of course.
Non-venomous snake bites can be approached as any other puncture wound. Cleaning the wound with soap and water, and applying ice is helpful to prevent infection. If there is infection, Ichthammol as described in the first section can help draw out any proteinaceous material injected by the fangs.
A bite by a venomous snake (usually the smaller snakes, by the way) can be very serious. Death is the outcome in about 20% of such bites. Depending on the snake, there can be two types of effects – excessive hemorrhages, or nervous system effects.
Snake venoms can interfere with normal blood clotting mechanisms, causing purple lesions all over the skin, bleeding from the mouth and even bowels, and bleeding into internal organs. Neurological effects can begin with blurry vision, a choking sensation in the throat, cramping of muscles, difficulty breathing, and ultimately seizures and coma.
At the moment of the bite, applying a tourniquet higher up on the extremity helps keep the venom from spreading. Squeezing the wound to expel venom is worth a try, but the old recommendation of sucking it out by mouth can be risky if there are any wounds inside the mouth. Staying quiet and not exerting is important to keep circulation at a low level is best. Applying ice if available might help locally. But the most important priority is to try to kill the snake (if possible, and safe, obviously); nowadays, an option of taking a picture might suffice. Then getting to an emergency facility for antivenom treatment is life-savingly urgent! Bringing in the snake (or its picture) so doctors can provide proper antivenom is important.
Most spider bites are more of an annoyance than a danger. There can be significant swelling and itching, but rarely anything more. Applying Ledum tincture frequently to the bite can help relieve symptoms. Urtica urens cream can help with itching. And an eRemedy from eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/ can accelerate healing such bites.
There are a few spider bites that can be dangerous. The black widow spider (Latrodectus mactans) famously lives in toilets, sometimes under toilet seats. So they can produce a serious bite near genitals.
Often the bite itself is not felt, but a few minutes later burning develops in the local area. Generalized body spasms ensue within hours, as well as difficulty breathing. Even cardiac pains can happen. The sickness usually passes within a few days, so it is rarely considered life-threatening. Ledum tincture can help the healing, as can the eRemedy from eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/.
A more serious spider bite is caused by the Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa). It also may live in toilets, but more often in dark dusty basements.
This bite has very severe destruction of local tissue. A sizeable ulceration of the skin forms because the cells are directly killed. As it heals over, considerable scarring forms. There can be generalized effects similar to Black Widow’s bite, but not so commonly.
Mosquito bites, Gnat Bites
Throughout many tropical environments, mosquitoes and gnats are tremendous irritants. The bites themselves are not a great threat to health in the moment, but mosquitoes are capable of carrying a variety of diseases that are serious – malaria, Dengue, and others.
Obviously, prevention is the first priority. It is useful to wear long sleeves and long pants, plus mosquito nets at night (in many places, mosquitoes come out around twilight and into the night). Insect repellant made from pyrethrum is effective. You can make it yourself using 10 drops of pyrethrum in 0.25 L (1/2 pint) of water.
Once you get one or more mosquito or gnat bites, the local irritation is annoying. Applying Ledum tincture directly on the bites helps. Itching can be helped by applying Urtica urens cream. Otherwise, you can use an eRemedy from eremedyonline.com/module/26/bites-and-stings/.
If you scratch too much and develop an infection, there will be more generalized redness and swelling and possibly red streaks going up the arms. This can be reversed using Ichthammol, a concentrated seaweed protein with high osmotic force that pulls infection out to the surface. In the US, one brand that is available is “Draw Out Salve.” Just apply a thick (1/4 inch) layer over the site, cover it well with gauze, and leave it on for two days at a time. This should pull the infection out to the surface so it can drain. Then you can cover the drainage with gauze until it heals.