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Thread: An Explorers Guide to Threats

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    Default An Explorers Guide to Threats

    An Explorers Guide to Threats and First Aid
    By Dan Haga

    I would like to compile a bunch of useful info on threats an explorer may come across in the field and how to handle them. This guide is by far not complete so keep checking back for updates.

    Skin Poisoning from Plants
    I want to start out with something that is a real problem for me, skin poisoning from plants. It is very common in the east to run into poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak while exploring. While it doesn’t bother everyone some people like me are very allergic to is and need to watch out.

    The poison in the poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac is contained in oily sap (urushiol oil) throughout the plant. Touching these plants my cause the skin to become red and itchy. Later blisters may form.

    The sap of poisonous plants takes about 20 minutes to bind to the skin. If you think you have touched one, try and rinse immediately with soapy water or at least water. There are also over the counter “scrubs” which you can carry like a bottle of hand sanitizer which can be used to wash off the oil in the field. Calamine lotion may relieve itching but I find that the effects are very short lived. Your best bet is to just not scratch it and leave it alone. There are good medications that do work better than calamine but they can be a bit pricey.


    Poison Ivy:
    Poison ivy is a vine easily recognized by 3-parted leaf stems. A hairy vine commonly seen on trees is also a dead giveaway. All parts of the plant are a threat. Leaves are green in the spring and summer and turn brilliant shades of red and orange in the fall.


    Poison Oak:
    Poison oak is a low shrub so watch out for it on the ground. Like poison ivy all parts of the poison oak plant are a threat. The shrub is made up of stems with 3 leaves that slightly resemble those of an oak tree.


    Poison Sumac:
    Poison sumac is a small tree or large shrub. Key features to identify it include large alternate leaves usually with 9-13 entire (not toothed) leaflets and a red rachis (the stem connecting the leaflets). The leaflets are smooth and may be shiny above.

    Facts:
    • The plants are a threat in all seasons and even when dead. Urushiol oil stays active on any surface for up to 5 years after leaving a plant. Wash your clothes!
    • Scratching a rash will not make it spread. Urushiol exposure is the only thing that will create rash. The oil is not contained in blisters.
    • Leaves of 3 let them be? True for poison ivy and oak but poison sumac can have 7 to 13 leaves per branch.

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    Asbestos

    Asbestos is commonly referred to as a fiber for its threadlike structure. Asbestos is mined from metamorphic rocks. The crystallized minerals are very fragile and easily break in a linear fashion which gives it the fibrous form. The fracture process will repeat over and over until the asbestos "fiber" has reached the smallest size possible which is hundreds of times thinner than a human hair. Because of its size it is very mobile and is easily lifted into the air where it will remain for long periods of time.

    Asbestos was popular for its resistance to heat and fire as well as its insulating characteristics. It is most common to find asbestos woven into fabrics or mixed with other materials such as cement. Rarely will it be used alone. The types of products that contain asbestos are insulation of many types, ceiling tiles, vinyl floor tiles, shingles, fire walls, plaster, stucco, etc…

    Many of the older buildings you might explore in will have these products and even warnings on doors and windows about it. Even though it may have been used in an isolated area such as pipe insulation in the basement chances are it has spread thru the entire building. Any small damage or impact to an asbestos containing product can release billions to trillions of fibers into the air which with even the slightest airflow can easily spread to another area. A few kids busting stuff up or a rub up against some insulation is all it takes to set it free, nature can do the rest. You cannot see or smell the airborne fibers.

    So what's wrong with asbestos? When you breathe it is it gets stuck in your lungs. The tiny glass like particles will get trapped and cut into your lungs. The actual problem occurs because of the scar tissue that forms in the effected areas. The scar tissue decreases the lungs ability to remove carbon dioxide and limits the amount of oxygen that can get to the bloodstream, this is called asbestosis. Asbestos exposure has also been determined to cause a serious form of cancer referred to as mesothelioma which is improperly referred to as lung cancer.

    So what can you do to protect yourself? Well first of all, those paper medical style masks are useless. They filter out a lot of dust but not asbestos. At the least you will need a half-mask respirator that is rated for asbestos. It will have a "P100 Filter" and will say on the package if it is asbestos rated or not. You can usually find them in places like home depot and lowes. Even though this will keep the asbestos out of your lungs while your in a building your clothes will still be covered so as soon as you remove the mask your exposed to what's on your clothes. The only way to be totally safe is to wear a protective suit and once clear of the area remove and dispose of the suit before even taking your mask off.

    What you do is up to you but at least now you know what asbestos is and what it does. I personally will almost never wear a mask but I do keep it with me. I will use it in places like steam tunnels or other places where the insulation on old pipes is falling apart... Areas where there could be heavy exposure.
    Last edited by Dan; 08-03-2006 at 04:17 PM.

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    Bites and Stings

    Ticks
    A common problem in this area is ticks. You will find ticks in the woods but you're most likely to pick one up walking thru the tall overgrown grass around an old abandonment. In most cases you will see or feel them moving across your skin and be able to remove them before they bite. You can't feel the bite but you will know because the tick will be attached and difficult to remove. The tick's interest is your blood so once they bite they don't let go until they are very full and swelled up.

    There are 2 problems with ticks, infected bites and disease. An infected bite is usually the result of not properly removing a tick. You will want to use tweezers and get as close to the head as possible before clamping down and pulling. It is common to have the body separate from the head leaving the head or parts of the mouth in the skin which will cause infection if left there. Its also good practice to rinse the area with alcohol or peroxide when finished. The other problem is disease. Some ticks, mainly deer ticks carry a bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease manifests itself as a multi-system inflammatory disease that affects the skin in its early, localized stage, and spreads to the joints, nervous system and, to a lesser extent, other organ systems in its later, disseminated stages. If diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics, Lyme disease is almost always readily cured. Generally, Lyme disease in its later stages can also be treated effectively, but because the rate of disease progression and individual response to treatment varies from one patient to the next, some patients may have symptoms that linger for months or even years following treatment. In rare instances, Lyme disease causes permanent damage.

    Even if bitten by an infected tick you may be fine for the first few hours. If the tick is still flat than it hasn’t started to transfer blood yet. It's not until the tick starts sucking your blood that the disease transfer is possible.

    Early symptoms of Lyme disease include flu type symptoms and a red rash that usually has the appearance of a "bull's eye". While the rash is usually centered on the bite itself it may appear somewhere else. Within the first month of exposure joint pain is also common. It will usually start in joints near the bite but can be sporadic effecting different joints from day to day. If you have any of these symptoms you should see a doctor to get your blood tested for the disease. If you test positive they will most likely put you on an antibiotic called Doxycycline. Just hope you test negative, I can say from first hand experience that the side effects of this drug suck and the 1-2+ months you will need to be on it wont be fun.



    For more information on Lyme disease visit: http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml

    While Lyme disease is a product of the deer tick you also need to watch out for a disease called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The onset of symptoms is abrupt with headache, high fever, chills, muscle pain. and then a rash.

    Basically… if you experience ANY odd symptoms after a tick bit you should see a doctor ASAP.

    Deer tick (Lyme Carrier)
    The deer (or black-legged) tick, and the related western black-legged tick, are the primary known transmitters of Lyme disease in the United States. Both are hard-bodied ticks with a two-year life cycle. Like all species of ticks, deer ticks and their relatives require a blood meal to progress to each successive stage in their life cycles.


    American Dog Tick (Rocky Mountain spotted fever carrier)
    The tick most commonly responsible for transmitting R. rickettsii, the agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This tick is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains and also occurs in limited areas on the Pacific Coast. Dogs and medium-sized mammals are the preferred hosts of this tick, although it feeds readily on other large mammals, including humans.




    Spiders
    Spiders… We've all seen them and we all hate them but truth is most of them are harmless in this area. Unlike the ticks mentioned above you will feel a spider bite. Even spider bites from non-venomous spiders can be painful. While most of the dangerous spider species are located mainly in the southern and western US it is still good to know what to watch out for. Below is a chart that lists mild to highly toxic spiders you might run into in the United States.



    Brown Recluse
    Adult Brown Recluse spiders are yellowish-tan to dark brown. They have long, thin gray to dark brown legs covered with very short, dark hairs. Both male and female spiders are similar in appearance and are equally venomous. Relatively few spiders are able to pierce the human skin, but the Brown Recluse spider is one of them. Brown Recluse spiders are non-aggressive. They typically hunt at night and most people are bitten by them through accidental contact while putting on clothes, rolling over them in bed at night, or coming into contact with areas where they prefer to dwell. Brown Recluse spiders generally bite when trapped between the skin and another surface such as bed sheets. The bite frequently goes unnoticed until the serious after-effects begin to settle in. In a short period of time, the venom in a Brown Recluse spider bite has the ability to cause major tissue necrosis. Necrosis is the death of living cells. The venom comes into contact with the living cells and they simply die. The result is a very painful and gruesome "flesh-rotting" open wound.A bite can go from bad to a lot worse in just a few days. Recovery is slow and painful but if you can get to a doctor within 24 hours there is an antidote that will stop the skin necrosis.


    Black Widow
    the black widow, is the largest and most familiar member of the spider family Therididae, the cobweb weavers. The black widow's reputation as one of the most venomous terrestrial creatures, while accurate on the whole, tends to exaggerate the dangers presented by potential contact. Black widows generally are not aggressive unless confined or bothered, and the amount of venom a female injects is minute (the males are harmless). However, the venom's concentration is 15 times more toxic than an equal weight of prairie rattlesnake venom, and bites require immediate medical attention. Mature black widows have glossy, jet black, rounded abdomens with a red hourglass-shaped ventral marking. Most adult females reach 1 ½ inches in size, including the legs, while many males achieve less than half this size, and tend to be more brown than black. The male black widow's body is smaller and its legs are longer than the female's. The black widow's bite may be felt only as a pin prick, during which the spider's fangs inject a minute amount of highly toxic venom under the skin. The severity of the victim's reaction depends on his or her age and health, and on the area of the body that is bitten. Local swelling and redness at the site may be followed in one to three hours by intense spasmodic pain, which can travel throughout the affected limbs and body, settling in the abdomen and back, and last 48 hours or longer. Elderly patients or young children run a higher risk of severe reactions, but it is rare for bites to result in death. Other symptoms can include nausea and profuse perspiration. If left untreated, tremors, convulsions and unconsciousness may result. If you are bitten by a black widow, contact your physician, hospital or poison center immediately and follow their instructions. Collect the spider if possible for identification. Your physician may administer an antivenom treatment and calcium gluconate to alleviate pain, and will probably treat the site with antiseptic to prevent infection. If you have a heart condition or are otherwise vulnerable, you may require a hospital stay until symptoms subside. Usually bite victims recover fully within two to five days.


    For more information on spiders in the US this site is a great reference: http://www.spiderzrule.com/commonspidersusa.htm



    Snakes
    Running into snakes while exploring is less common than the ticks or spiders mentioned above but still something you need to be aware of. There are too many snakes in the country to go into detail about them all so I'm going to stick to the ones in the Maryland area but keep in mind that first-aid for pretty much any snake bite will be the same.

    While there are 27 kinds of snakes in Maryland only 2 of them are venomous: the copperhead and timber rattlesnake.

    Northern Copperhead
    This is one of the two venomous snake species in Maryland. The color is a rich, reddish, brown with a series of darker hourglass markings down its back. Its head is usually a bright copper color and its belly is pinkish. It seldom exceeds three feet in length. It has a single anal plate and keeled scales. This is the only Maryland snake that has dark dorsal markings which are narrow on the back and broad on the sides. Copperheads exist throughout the State in remote rocky, wooded areas where they feed on small rodents and other warm-blooded prey. Occasionally, they will feed on aquatic animals. Females give birth to approximately 12 live young which are 8-10 inches in length.


    Timber Rattlesnake
    This venomous reptile is the only species of snake in the State with a segmented rattle at the end of its tail. It has brown or black cheveron-shaped markings on a yellow background, down its back. The background color may vary from a bright yellow to a dull gray. Entirely black specimens also occur. This snake rarely exceeds six feet in length. It commonly occurs in the remote rocky, mountainous sections of the State. Females may give birth to as many as 12 live young which are approximately 9-10 inches long. The pit viper habit of congregating at dens, creates a situation wherein considerable numbers of rattlesnakes and copperheads can be seen at one time.


    Being bitten by a venomous snake is pretty rare. The Maryland Poison Control Center reports that only an average of 2-6 people receive venomous snake bites in Maryland each year.

    The best thing to do if bitten is to wash the bite with soap and water than keep the bite at an elevation lower than your heart while you get to a hospital as quickly as possible.
    Last edited by Dan; 08-03-2006 at 11:29 AM.

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    Great info here!

    Glad im not allergic to any of that poison stuff
    "There is but one truth. If you avert your eyes from it, you will always remain nothing more than a puppet"-Schwarzwald

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    i still find this interesting and look for furture information. You should post about the Water Moccasin. I've seen several of these while in areas with water. Would really suck to be bit by one of them.

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    I used to always walk in the woods with shorts but it was always an accident. I would get the ticks off before they bit me. I've educated myself a lot about lyme disease and ticks because when I find a deer tick on me I get paranoid. I've never gotten any effects from poison ivy which is weird. I'm starting to think I'm immune.

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    Something I learned about deer ticks when I went to see if I could be tested for Lyme disease if I didn't have any symptoms: the tick needs to be attached to your skin for a period of 24 hours or more. The reason they spread Lyme, if they are carriers of it, is because after the tick is attached for about an entire day, then it will begin to feed. Once they are done feeding, some of the blood (and therefore its saliva or whatever) is transfered back into your body. It is here that the disease is passed to you. So, if you have a deer tick on you for only a few hours, even if the tick is a carrier, you will not get Lyme disease!

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    Black mold is no joke check it out. weve all seen it.
    http://www.inspect-ny.com/sickhouse/wallmold.jpg


    "Black mold" or "toxic mold" are terms often used to describe Stachybotrys chartarum (atra), a mold that has received much media attention in recent years. This slow-growing fungus REQUIRES CHRONIC OR SEVERE WATER DAMAGE TO CELLULOSE-BASED MATERIALS (such as sheetrock, wood, cardboard, paper or jute-backed carpeting) in order to grow. It does not grow on bathroom tile.

    Chronic exposure to black mold toxins ("toxic mold") has been reported to cause cold or flu symptoms, sore throats, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis, intermittent hair loss, generalized malaise, or other health-related problems. Medical experts suspect Stachybotrys black mold may often be involved in ailments complained about in sick-building syndrome.
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    The Cottonmouth Water Moccasin
    (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
    There is only one North American poisonous water snake - the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin! Not to be confused at all with its many nonpoisonous neighbors, this snake is a pit viper in the same general family as the Copperhead and the Rattler.

    This dangerous semi-aquatic snake is truly an aggressive reptile that will stand its ground or even approach an intruder.
    They favor lying dormant on logs, rocks or limbs at water's edge awaiting the telltale movement of approaching prey. It is characterized by a brown, olive or blackish dark body with lighter belly, and body crossbands which have a distinct border extending all the way around and across the yellowish stomach.

    Young, born live, are much brighter and often are most similar in color to the Copperhead, each with a bright yellow or lime greenish tail tip. These snakes readily vibrate their tails when provoked or approached and can make an impressive 'rattling' sound when placed against leaves, water, or solid objects. The older snakes tend to lose the obvious pattern effect and appear to be darker and bland colored. The triangular shaped head is evident even at rest, set off with distinct elliptical 'cat-eye' pupils and a dark facial line extending through the eye. Powerful jaws support this snake's habit of latching on during a bite rather than the quick strike and release pattern of its cousin the Copperhead.
    The Cottonmouth derives its name from the habit of lying in a sprawled coil, head flung back, with the mouth resting in an ominous open position exposing the white inner surface of the mouth almost straight up.
    http://floridaconservation.org/viewi...s/ctnmouth.gif
    http://floridaconservation.org/viewi...s/ctmouth2.gif
    - has never been arrested for "Moapery"... just for the record.


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    Just an FYI

    My cousin is a herpatologist at the National Zoo. The northern-most range of the water moccasin is the Great Dismal Swamp in southern Virginia. Alot of people mistake water snakes around the DC area as moccasins. Regular water snakes can be beer can thick and extremely aggressive but not poisonous. I saw a brown water snake while kayaking in Leonardtown last Saturday that had to have been 6 inches around!
    In God we trust, all others we monitor.

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    Ticks are no joke, older bro has lyme disease but he caught it early.

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    Level 2 User NIN's Avatar
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    my friend got one on him while we were at carrie

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    Quote Originally Posted by NIN View Post
    my friend got one on him while we were at carrie

    i went to a local location with Alex a couple weeks ago and picked at least 8 off myself.

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    i saw on the news yesturday that lyme disease in on the rise doubled i think since 2005 or something like that. but i guess if u pick them off within 24 hours you have almost no chance of getting lyme disease.

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    Quote Originally Posted by navymedic87 View Post
    i saw on the news yesturday that lyme disease in on the rise doubled i think since 2005 or something like that. but i guess if u pick them off within 24 hours you have almost no chance of getting lyme disease.
    Only problem with the tick that carries lyme disease is that that they are one of the smallest ticks out there. Most will bloat up with blood and fall off at around 24hours(personal experience-that tick was a fat little dude when I woke up) and if you pick them off yourself you should besure the head has been removed with the body, If the head breaks off-infection. use alcohol or a match to get them to back out first.
    - has never been arrested for "Moapery"... just for the record.


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