A summer first aid kit is pretty important during this warm season. Dangers like poisonous plants, sunburns, dehydration, and insect bites are all just right around the corner. So before jumping into camping, hiking, trekking, going to the beach, having picnics, and basically basking under the glorious sun, pack your first aid kit essentials and adhere to the following summer safety tips.
Poisonous Plants to Avoid During Summer
There are many poisonous perennial plants that grow stealthily with other harmless plants during summer. And if one is not careful enough to identify them, one could end up having undesirable and awful dermatitis that could last for weeks. Here are five plants to avoid in summer:
Poison ivy in summer is a common shrub or vine throughout the United States. It has compound leaves with three leaflets with the middle leaf having a petiole. Its leaves always grow from left then right, never side by side. Touching any part of the plant results to itching, rash, and blisters due to the oil urushiol that the plant produces.
The poison oak is a woody shrub or climbing vine with leaves that grow in clusters of three. It also has urushiol oil that causes itchy rashes on the skin upon contact with any part of the plant. The leaf edges can be toothed or lobed and the leaves can be glossy or dull, and sometimes hairy underneath.
Poison sumac is usually found in swampy, boggy areas. It is a woody shrub or small tree that grows from five to 20 feet tall. It has seven to 13 leaflets arranged in pairs, with a single leaflet at the end, and it produces yellowish flowers that mature into clusters of glossy yellow or off-white berries. Poison sumac can produce the allergy-inducing urushiol that causes redness, rash, and blisters on the skin.
The stinging nettle is a perennial herbaceous plant that usually reaches between two and four feet high. It has rigid stems with heart-shaped leaves that are toothed and tapered at the ends. Touching stinging nettle can produce itching and welts as the plant is armed with small hairs that can inject histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and formic acid.
The wild parsnip is a perennial herbaceous plant that has alternate leaf system. The leaf is made up of five to 15 egg-shaped leaflets along both sides of a common stalk. The leaflets are sharply-toothed or lobed at the margins. It has flat-topped broad yellow flower cluster that is two to six inches wide. Skin contact with the plant’s toxic sap in the presence of sunlight can cause a rash, blistering, and discoloration of the skin (phytophotodermatitis).
Poison Plants Prevention and First Aid Tips
- The first and most important tip to know in poison plant prevention is that you must learn to identify these troublesome plants and steer clear from them.
- The poison ivy, oak, and sumac have the urushiol that could remain active for years even on the dead or fallen parts of the plant.
- Do not burn poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac as the toxins can be inhaled and cause internal damage.
- Wear protective clothing like long pants, long sleeves, socks, and shoes when you are hiking/camping in a wooded area.
- Clean and wash any exposed skin and wash clothes exposed to poison ivy right after taking a hike.
- Clean with rubbing alcohol or with water and detergent your walking poles, gardening tools and camping gear exposed to poison ivy before putting them away.
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac First Aid
- Wash the exposed skin and scrub under the fingernails immediately with soap and water. If you have Tecnu Original or Zanfel with you, use it to remove the oil from the skin. If you are in the woods, wash thoroughly in a running stream.
- Remove the contaminated clothing.
- When a poison ivy rash starts to appear, do not scratch as this can cause more damage, itchiness, pain, and infection. You can apply cool compresses for 15 to 30 minutes at a time or apply calamine lotion to relieve the itch.
- If there is difficulty breathing or swelling of the tongue or throat, seek emergency medical care.
Stinging Nettle First Aid
- Do not touch or rub the affected area. Pour some fresh water over the area without touching it.
- Use soap and water to remove the nettle hairs. If water is not available, use a clean cloth to gently wipe and remove the hairs.
- Apply a cool compress to the area. The cool temperature can help reduce the redness and relieve some of the discomfort.
- Apply a paste of baking soda and cold water or apply aloe vera juice to relieve some of the itching, inflammation, and the burning sensation.
- If you have hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion in your wilderness first aid kit, apply it to the clean affected area.
Wild Parsnip First Aid
- Get out of direct sunlight and cover the affected area with a cool wet cloth.
- Wash the area with soap and water or with a rubbing alcohol.
- Do not rupture the blisters and keep the area clean.
- Apply an antibiotic cream while it heals.
First Aid for Insect Bites and Stings
Aside from staying away from dangerous plants, enjoying the summer also means keeping yourself and your family from annoying insect bites and stings that can ruin the happy summer vibe. Here are some insects to avoid in summer and the first aid tips to help you treat their bites and stings.
Bee, Wasp, Hornet, Fire Ant or Scorpion Stings
- Get to a safer place to avoid getting more stings.
- Remove the stinger by scraping it with a credit card or similar objects.
- Clean the area with soap and water and apply a cool compress.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or a baking soda paste several times a day to relieve the pain.
- If there are symptoms like swollen lips and/or throat, dizziness, hives, nausea, and difficulty breathing or swallowing, get medical emergency help or call 911.
- Avoid scratching the area.
- Apply calamine, diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or hydrocortisone to alleviate the itching.
- Watch out for symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases like fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting, confusion, rash, fatigue, jaundice or nosebleeds. See a doctor if these symptoms develop.
- Prevention: To stop mosquito bites this summer, wear light colors and use insect repellent.
- Remove the tick using a tweezer and gripping near its head or mouth and pulling outward without twisting.
- Clean the area and apply antiseptic.
- If fever, chest pain, headache, upset stomach develop, consult a doctor.
- Prevention: Ticks are most active during warmer months. Treat garments or equipment with products containing permethrin like Repel Permethrin Clothing & Gear Insect Repellent Aerosol. Spray garments or equipment at least two to four hours before you’re planning to use or pack them to make sure they’re completely dry.
- Rinse the area using vinegar.
- Remove the tentacles with tweezers.
- Soak the area with hot water (not scalding) for 20 to 45 minutes.
- Do not scrap, rub or apply pressure on the area and do not rinse with seawater, urine, or fresh water.
- Take oral pain relievers or apply topical pain relievers like lidocaine cream.
- If the stung areas are on or around the face or genitals, seek immediate professional care.
- If the victim has shortness of breath, weakness, muscle cramps, palpitations or any other generalized symptoms, call for emergency medical help. If the sting is from a box jellyfish, antivenin medication is needed.
Cuts and Grazes
- Wash your hands before starting to treat the wound.
- Stop the bleeding if there is any by applying pressure with a clean or a clean cloth.
- Wash the area with running water or clean it with alcohol-free wipes.
- Cover the cut or abrasion with a plaster or apply a sterile dressing.
- Do not remove embedded objects. Refer it to the medical staff.
- Remove clothing and jewelry from the burned areas, except clothing stuck to the skin.
- Cool the burn by running cool (not cold) water on the area or apply a cool, wet compress to ease the pain.
- Bandage the burn with a sterile gauze bandage to protect the skin. Do not put pressure on the burned skin while bandaging so wrap it loosely.
- Do not break any blisters or apply ointments, butter, or other remedies on the burn.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) if needed.
- Seek emergency care for major burns
- Get out of the sun and rehydrate with water or juice.
- Take a cool bath or shower or apply cool compresses to the area.
- Apply calamine lotion or after-sun lotion like an aloe vera gel to help soothe the skin.
- If it blisters, do not break them.
- Take ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief.
- Check for symptoms of heat exhaustion or dehydration.
- Prevention: Always apply sunscreen before going outdoors and basking under the sun. If you are swimming, use a sunscreen with broad spectrum SPF and re-apply every 2 hours, as well as after sweating or towel drying. Try to stay in shade, especially during the hottest part of the day.
- Take note of the symptoms of heat exhaustion: headache, dizziness, heavy sweating, cramps, weak pulse, and fatigue.
- Move the person out of the heat and into a cool place and remove tight or heavy clothing.
- Lay him/her down and raise the legs and feet.
- Let the person drink plenty of cool water or non-caffeinated drinks.
- Cool him/her off by fanning, spraying or sponging with cool water.
- Monitor the breathing and pulse.
- Seek emergency medical help if symptoms worsen.
- Symptoms of dehydration are dry mouth, eyes and skin, headache, cracked lips, dark urine or urinating less frequently, cramps, lightheadedness, and constipation.
- Get the person to sit down and give him/her plenty of water or Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) to drink.
- To relieve pain from cramps, stretch and massage their muscles.
- Monitor vital signs.
How to Pack A First Aid Kit
Summer camps are really popular destinations for kids and one of the most important summer camp safety tips is to pack a reliable first aid kit. These youngsters will go on their adventures and camp activities and most likely, they may encounter poisonous plants, stinging insects, and the blazing sun. A first aid kit for summer camp will truly come in handy, and knowing how to pack one is essential to cover possible hazards.
Here is a basic but helpful summer camp first aid kit checklist:
- Adhesive bandages
- Elastic bandages
- Butterfly bandages
- Gauze pads or gauze roll
- Sterile wipes, soap, and alcohol
- Tweezers, scissors, safety pins, and knife
- Poison ivy, oak or sumac wash or cleanser
- Medical adhesive tape
- Basic medications: pain-relief medication, antiseptic creams, and ointments, anti-diarrhea medicine, antihistamine and hydrocortisone cream
- Aloe vera gel or sunburn cream (sun exposure relief)
- Protective gloves
- SAM splints
- CPR mouth shield
Summer is a great season many people young and old look forward to. Activities like camping, hiking, trekking, going to the beach, and basically basking under the glorious sun are enjoyable things to do, however, it is essential that these things are done with vigilance. Though the weather is perfect for such activities, there are still many dangers Mother Nature has in store for some of us. That is why it is essential that you have knowledge of first aid and that your first aid kit contents list is always up to date.