UAB’s tips for summer outdoors

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – The warm weather is pushing many of us outside to explore our yards, work in our gardens or hike in Alabama’s Beautiful Parks. But with the great outdoors come not-so-good bites and stings from insects and animals.

Walter Schrading, MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Office of Savage Medicine in the Heersink School of Medicine to University of Alabama at Birminghamrecommend using approved insect repellent while wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts if you are going to be outdoors in buggy areas.

Products containing DEET are considered the most effective repellents, but Schrading says products with picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil are effective, comparable to lower concentrations of DEET.

Schrading offers these tips on using products containing DEET:

  • Read and follow all directions and precautions on the product label.
  • Keep DEET out of reach of children.
  • To apply on the face, first spray the product on the hands, then rub on the face.
  • Use only outdoors and wash skin with soap and water after going indoors.
  • Check the label for the concentration of DEET. A product with a 25% concentration of DEET provides about six to eight hours of protection.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Avoid excessive application of the product.
  • DEET can be used in adults, children and infants over 2 months old. Protect infants from mosquito bites by using a baby carrier draped in mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a snug fit.

One option for use on clothing or tents is permethrin. It is an insecticide, not a repellent, so it should not be applied to the skin.

Fight against ticks

The likelihood of contracting Lyme disease, a common tick-borne illness from a local tick bite, is low in the Southeast, according to Schrading. Ticks in Alabama are known to carry the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, characterized by a flu-like illness, followed by a red, raised rash on the wrists or ankles. The best way to remove a tick, he says, is to grab the tick with tweezers as close to the surface of the skin as possible and pull upwards in one easy motion. Wash the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Do a full body check after spending time in a potential tick environment. Schrading says ticks that have been embedded for less than 24 hours are unlikely to spread the disease.

Don’t get stung

“One of the biggest outdoor risks is bee or wasp stings, especially for people with severe allergic reactions,” said Marie-Carmelle Elie, MD, president of UAB. Department of Emergency Medicine. “A severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can be fatal.”

She recommends people with a history of an allergic reaction carry an epinephrine auto-injector, commonly known as an EpiPen, when camping or hiking. EpiPens require a doctor’s prescription.


Elie says the best way to avoid snakebites is to watch carefully for snakes in the woods or near rivers or streams, and to wear long pants and boots. She says the most important safety gear you can carry is a cell phone and your car keys.

“Access emergency service as quickly as safely possible, and this can often be accomplished by calling 911,” Elie said. “If possible, take a picture of the snake with the cell phone, but leave the snake behind. The last thing we need in a crowded emergency room is a snake, dead or alive.

The WBRC spoke to experts on snakes and snake safety in Alabama:

be ready

Schrading says a good first aid kit is essential for anyone planning to spend time outdoors. Ready-made kits are available at outdoor stores, or they can be assembled from materials on hand. Include assorted dressings and basic medications. Include 1% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream, bendable splints, alcohol wipes, and cleansing agents.

He also recommends planning before heading out into the woods or mountains. Research the destination and know what to expect. Be aware of your group’s strengths and weaknesses. Who has allergies? Who knows CPR? Are there any special needs to take into account?

“Common sense and a little thought before you venture out will help make your outdoor adventure one to remember,” Schrading said.


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