How to camp safe

By: Carlye Malchuk, Miriam Osborne, Sarah Jane Silva, Colleen Tully, and Lauren Vinent

Author: Canadian Living


How to camp safe

By: Carlye Malchuk, Miriam Osborne, Sarah Jane Silva, Colleen Tully, and Lauren Vinent

Slap, scratch and swat -– it's part of campground life. Here's what to do when bugs bite, bees sting and insects go bzzzzz in the night.

Bugs and flies
• Repel blood-feeding insects such as mosquitoes, blackflies and deerflies by covering up as much of your body as possible with light-coloured clothes. (Dark colours attract bugs.)

Use a bug repellent. For adults, a product with a low concentration of DEET (N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) works well. Note that the higher the concentration, the longer it will work. A 30 per cent concentration lasts about six hours, whereas a five per cent will last about two. Children and pregnant women should use a lower concentration.

• Wear bug hats and jackets that have mesh netting covering openings.

Wash all bites with soap and water. For mosquito and black fly bites, follow this with calamine lotion to ease the swelling; for deer fly bites, disinfect the wound with alcohol or an antiseptic and, for those over six years old, try an oral antihistamine to reduce symptoms.

• Avoid contracting West Nile virus by removing still water in birdbaths, play pools or any toys that collect rainwater.

• Find out if a person who is stung by a bee, wasp, hornet or yellow jacket is allergic. Watch for signs of anaphylactic shock -– difficulty breathing and rapid swelling of the throat and tongue –- or unresponsiveness. If these appear, call 911 immediately.

Look for an allergy kit the affected person may be carrying; you can administer emergency first aid until you reach a hospital.

If there is no allergic reaction, try to:
• Keep the person calm and immobile.

• Lower the limb that has been stung to reduce the spread of venom.

Remove the stinger if it's still in the wound, then clean with soap and water and an antiseptic.

• Walk calmly away from the nest without alarming the insects.

Remove nests that are in a location that poses a threat, such as near play areas, at dusk, when bees and wasps typically rest.

• Liberally spray a tick that has plunged its mouth under your skin with bug repellent, forcing it to relax its grip. Use tweezers or tick pliers (available at most outdoor stores) to gently pull it out.

Page 1 of 2 -- On page 2, learn what techniques to use in case you meet a bear in the woods, and tips to keep your campfire under control.

Bear watch
Pack food and items that have a strong odour (toothpaste, hand lotion, soap, sunscreen, bug repellent) in a separate pack from your other supplies. Suspend this pack by rope from the sturdiest branch of a tree 100 metres away from your tent or trailer.

• Make sure your cooking station is well away from where you sleep.

• Avoid cooking with foods that have a strong odour, such as bacon.

Vary your reaction to an attacking bear according to what kind it is: If it's a male, stand tall, wave your arms and yell; if it's a female with cubs, lie on your stomach, wrap your arms behind your neck, keep your legs apart to anchor yourself and play dead.

Poison Plants
Ivy: "Leaves of three? Let it be!" refers to this shrub, which generally has three or more spoon-shaped leaves.

Oak: The leaves of poison oak have three to seven leaflets per leaf group. Poison oak can grow as a vine or a shrub.

Sumac: Poison sumac has seven to 13 leaflets per leaf stem, which have smooth edges with pointed tips. This plant can grow as a shrub or small tree.

• If you or a family member has been in contact with any of these plants, wash the skin immediately with soap and water to prevent a reaction, which can appear up to 48 hours after contact.

• If you do get a reaction, clean the area with soap and water, then apply wet compresses or take cool baths to relieve symptoms. Over-the-counter antihistamines and calamine lotion may help. If your reaction is moderate to severe (swelling of the face, neck, genitals or eyelids, and widespread large blisters that ooze large amounts of fluid) you may need medical attention.

Building a safe campfire
Build the fire near water and sheltered from the wind. It should be on rock or bare dirt surface at least 15 metres from your tent and three metres from logs, stumps, trees and overhanging branches.

• Clear a two-metre circular area of pine needles, leaves or debris that could catch fire, if you're building a fire on dirt.

• Make sure that your campfire is not larger than one metre high and one metre wide.

Douse the fire with water to put it out, then stir the remains with a stick to expose any burning coals. Douse the fire pit again and put your hand over the ashes to make sure they have cooled.

Don't put rocks around your campfire. They can shelter hidden coals and start a new fire. If rocks are there already, move them around after dousing the fire and make sure there isn't anything still burning.

Campground cleanliness tips
• Regularly wash your hands with biodegradable soap and water, and use hand sanitizer for in-between washes.

• Tell your kids not to touch wild animals or reptiles; they could be very dirty and carry diseases.

• Don't touch turtles because they can be infected with salmonella, a bacteria that causes stomach pains, fever and bloody diarrhea in humans.

Page 2 of 2

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How to camp safe