Skip to main content

Road Ready vol.2: Common Travel Ailments and What To Do

We continue our series on the most common ailments that strike on the open road below with numbers four and five. If you have any medical or health questions our providers are here for you and your family, even while you travel!

4.) Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac and Insect Bites

Most families when they are packing up to hit that open road are headed to camp out at least one or two nights along the way. And with exposure to the great outdoors comes that which lives in the outdoors, namely insects and itch inducing plant life like poison ivy or poison oak. Even the most seasoned outdoorsman has forgotten his footing and ended up off trail by accident and the itch begins.

Signs And Symptoms

Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac often cause an itchy rash which will form within 24 to 72 hours of contact, dependent on where the plant touched the skin. The rash is caused by a substance found on these plants called urushiol. It often presents as patches or streaks of red, or with raised blisters. The rash commonly does not spread unless urushiol is still in contact with the skin.

Who Is Most At Risk?

Anyone in your travel party can become exposed to poison ivy, oak or sumac.

How To Treat

If you think you or someone in your travel party has come in contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac clean the area with warm water and soap as soon as possible. If there's no water, rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes can remove it. Keep the area cool, dry, and clean. Wash your clothes and clean your boots or shoes. Most cases of a rash caused by one of these three plants can be treated with OTC medications like calamine, diphenhydramine, or hydrocortisone which can relieve the itching. Contrary to popular belief once the area is cleaned of urushiol and the rash has developed it is not contagious. Try not to scratch, as it won't spread the rash but digging at any rash can cause scarring or infections.

Again a good offense and knowledge is an asset: poison ivy is probably the most well known, and both it and poison oak are vine in nature while poison sumac is a bush. The "Leaves of Three, Let It Be" rhyme does apply… but only really to poison ivy. Poison oak can have as many groupings three, five or seven and sumac can grow in clusters of seven to thirteen. This is the long way of saying, keep to the marked trails in any campsite, park (national, state or local) and try not to venture off the marked paths as vegetation like poison ivy, oak or sumac is more likely to grow where it won't be disturbed.

5.) Bee or Wasp Stings

Nothing can cause a car to go into [anic mode faster than the appearance of a bee! Not to mention just the sheer annoyance level of a buzzing biting insect that you can't quite locate for mile upon mile. These little annoyances can add up to a big time bug out should the bee become agitated enough to sting, or the bug ends up being a mosquito whose bite means a long suffering itch or worse. But in our summertime travels they are all too common of fellow travelers. A bee sting in and of itself is fairly innocuous, unless you happen to be allergic. Then it can take on a whole host of other medical concerns.

Signs and Symptoms

A bee sting is pretty evident, there's a close buzz then instant pain that is sharp or burning where you were stung. The skin around the area where the stinger entered the skin will usually be red accompanied by some slight swelling. In most people the pain and swelling subside within a couple of hours. A more moderate reaction can involve: extreme redness and swelling that does not diminish but actually grows larger over the course of 24-48 hours. A severe allergic reaction is denoted by the following:

  • Skin reactions including hives, itching, flushed or pale skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness

NOTE: If you have had a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting you have a 30 to 60 percent chance of developing anaphylaxis the next time you are stung. You should consult your physician or an allergy specialist about prevention measures to avoid similar complex reactions.

Most of the time a bee or wasp will only sting in self defense, but if you disrupt a hive or encounter a large swarm of bees you can possibly receive multiple stings. If you are stung more than a dozen times, the venom from the stinging insects (like bees or wasps) can accumulate and make you feel ill. Some reactions to the venom include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vertigo
  • Convulsions
  • Fever
  • Dizziness or fainting.

Multiple stings can mean a medical emergency in children or older adults; anyone who has breathing or heart problems.

Who Is Most At Risk?

Children (especially young children) are often most susceptible to bee stings, but anyone can through a series of events be stung. Adults are actually more likely to have a severe reaction to a bee sting so keep aware of your surroundings.

How To Treat

Most simple bee stings require nothing more than a little TLC. If an allergic reaction, a severe reaction, or multiple stings are present call 911, and seek immediate medical care. If you are prescribed an emergency epinephrine auto injector (Epi-Pen or others), use it right away.

If the area around the bee sting does not go away within a few days seek out an urgent care or clinic for consult.