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Animal Bites While Hiking and Camping: Safety Tips

8/11/2015
It’s that time of year, and lots of Assist America members are out hiking and camping.  Animal bites, especially envenomations, are a real hazard to anyone spending a significant time outdoors away from developed areas.  While some bites may be nothing more than a nuisance, many can be quite dangerous, especially without proper cleaning and care. 
 
Here are a few safety tips:
 
1. Make sure you are in a safe location, and not at risk for further injury or bites
2. Engage local emergency services
   a. 911 can assist with EMS, police and animal control as necessary
3. Try to identify what bit you
   a. For animals in general, was it an animal that is known to you (a friend’s pet perhaps)?  Was the animal acting strangely prior to the bite?  Is the animal still in the vicinity?  If the animal has left, try to see which direction it went in and provide as many details as possible to Emergency Services as it may be necessary to capture and test the animal for rabies.
   b. For snakes, DO NOT try to capture the snake.  Observe the snake from a distance to get as much info on the color and size of the snake.  You should attempt to identify the order that the colors present on the snake as it may mean the difference between venomous and not.
   c. For insects, try to identify the insect.  If it can be accomplished safely, try to secure it in a sealed container for official identification (a folded over piece of tape is a great way to capture and hold small insects like ticks).  If the insect cannot be safely collected, observe it from a safe distance to identify any markings or specific characteristics such as number of legs, color, shape, size, etc.  
4. In the event of a possible envenomation, Assist America will make sure to ask the potential receiving facilities if they have the appropriate antivenin on hand, or have a means of obtaining it
   a. In areas where certain venomous animals are present, there are usually regional antivenin holdings that will transfer the needed antivenin to a patient’s location when requested by the hospital.  This can be problematic for persons bitten by a pet snake in an area that does not normally have that species present.  Other logistics might be needed in order to get the appropriate antivenin to the patient
 
Here are a few useful websites regarding bites and envenomations:
 
Animals in general:
 
Snakes:
 
Spiders and other insects: