When you go outdoors, it is lush and green and your companions for the evening, sometimes, are also the local mosquitoes. While some people are not too affected by their bites, others (including me) are. In those allergic to the bites (me too), the irritation of the bite is followed by intense itching and a red swelling around the bite. This is because of the enzymes a female mosquito injects into the skin before sucking blood. While these bites are pretty harmless, there is the rare chance of some infection from them (malaria!) and in any case, they are best avoided.
Mosquito repellents abound in the market, and most of them seem to be pretty effective when used as directed. It helps to wear long trousers and full shirts.
If you get bitten, the best course of action is to do nothing. Scratching only intensifies the itch. If the irritation is very severe, rubbing ice, or any cold metallic surface helps to a great degree. The ideal thing to do is to get involved in something to distract from the itch.
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!
In the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, snakes rule. They seem to be found in every region we go to. Yet, we have not had a snake related casualty on a programme. The reason is that snakes are shy creatures. Very few of the snakes we come across are actually venomous and even the ones that are, would prefer to flee rather than encounter a creature many times its size and waste the precious venom that it uses for digestion and cannot do without. Humans are not prey sized for any of the snakes in our region in any case.
Still, snakes can bite, are slithery creatures and give most of us a jitter at the very least.
There are many things we can do to avoid snakes and snake bites. Look carefully before reaching into crevices or under rocks. Wear shoes in the wilderness at night and walk slowly to give them time to escape. If you come across a snake, stamp your feet to alert it to flee and move away.
In the rare case that you or someone with you gets bitten, look at the wound carefully bites from venomous snakes leave two puncture marks and non-venomous bites leave scratches. If you are in doubt, or if it is a venomous bite, tie a tourniquet on the thigh, or upper arm and reassure the victim and help him or her to be calm, to keep the heart rate as slow as possible and move to the nearest medical services at once.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HANDLE OR CAPTURE SNAKES THAT YOU COME ACROSS UNLESS YOU HAVE ENOUGH EXPERIENCE TO IDENTIFY THEM ACCURATELY AND HANDLE THEM ADEQUATELY. This is a leading cause of snake related accidents.
Scorpions abound in the outdoors in India, and being careful is a virtue second to none. They are nocturnal, so it helps to be aware that they could be around after dark. Basic precautions include shaking the bedding thoroughly before getting in, if it has been laid out for some time, shaking out shoes before putting your feet in, not reaching into dark crevices of any sort without checking them out first. If stung, the procedure is the same as for a snae bite. Keep calm, restrict the spread of venom and rush to the first doctor you find.
Dehydration is the most common medical problem in the outdoors and the chief cause of headaches and faintness. We are unaccustomed to spending a long time under the sun, or in physical activity. We lose a great amount of water through perspiration and even plain evaporation through our skin.
The result is a headache, faintness, chapped lips, exhaustion … We need to drink water to cover our loss from exposure to the environment. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and make a habit of sipping from it. Hats, sunglasses and full clothing are useful in staying cool and minimizing water loss.
You will need more water than usual and not being used to it, you may not consciously feel thirsty, so try to consciously drink as much as you can. There is no such think as excessive water intake in the outdoors and you are not having enough if you don’t need to go and pee every couple of hours.
This one is self explanatory. Please apply adequate sunscreen, and reapply as needed. Hats, sunglasses, scarves and full clothing help. The more sensitive your skin is, the more careful you need to be about these things.
The chief cause of chapped lips is dehydration (smoking too). Most of the time, it is fairly safe to say that if a person has chapped lips, he needs to drink more water. Vaseline, lipbalms, etc. help to protect and relieve discomfort, but cannot actually cure the lips that are parched.
Cuts and scratches
These happen on exposed skin that gets rubbed on things near it. Long trousers and full sleeve shirts solve most of this problem. Being careful and avoiding scrapes does the rest.
Campfires An evening outdoors is all the more cozy around campfires. Some precautions can help make it worry-free.
Avoid campfires unless it is cold enough to require one, or you need it for cooking. The wood is best saved for fuel for locals, who might end up cutting trees in the absence of dead wood.
Build a fire in an area as sheltered from the wind as your site allows. Also build it downwind from your precious nylon tents that could get sparks and tinder from the wind.
Handle the fire from an adequate distance and with appropriate respect for consequences of carelessness. Pay particular attention to long hair and loose clothing when bending over a fire.
Enjoy to your hearts content!
Before retiring for the night, make sure that the fire is dead. Dunking a pail of water and putting a couple of flat stones on it is a good way of ensuring this. Wind directions often change in the night and early morning and you don’t want to be sleeping soundly in your tent when the wind brings embers that way.
These ideas are precautionary, and there is a huge potential for fun. So don’t forget to have a great time.