When you should seek medical care

Hunting season is here and many hunters will be spending more time outdoors, but even the most outdoorsman can unwittingly stumble into biting insects or brush against poisonous plants that put a damper on the hunting season.

To avoid these unfriendly meetings, take a few preventive steps:

r Before heading outdoors, study pictures of poisonous plants so you can identify and avoid them.

r Wear gloves, long sleeves and pants when outdoors in areas where poisonous plants may be present.

r Avoid becoming host to a tick by wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants fitted tightly at the ankles when in grassy and wooded areas.

Fortunately, encounters with ticks, poison ivy and other outdoor nuisances typically result in annoying but short-term itchy rashes or welts. But with the possibility of pest-borne illnesses, infections or severe allergic reactions, there are times when the call of the outdoors should be answered with medical care. Here are a few guidelines:

r Seek emergency medical care immediately if you are having difficulty breathing or experience swelling in your lips or tongue. These symptoms signal a severe allergy that must be treated right away. The same goes for rashes that cover the entire body.

r Rashes or bites on your face should be seen by a primary care provider who can help you prevent spread or damage to your eyes.

r If an insect bite coincides with a high fever, chills and severe headache, call your primary care provider.

r Blisters, bites and other openings should be treated with an antibiotic cream to prevent infection. If the skin takes on a red, beefy color, feels warm, swollen or has a colorful, odorous discharge, it should be seen by your primary caregiver because those are signs of an infection.

r If you find a tick that has begun to imbed in your skin, you should contact your primary care provider, who can not only assist with its safe removal, but also provide appropriate testing and treatment for Lyme’s disease.

r Contact your primary care provider if you discover a red bull’s eye rash (erythema migraines). About 70 percent of people with Lyme’s disease develop this rash within three-30 days of infection (seven days is the average). The rash centers at the bite site and over time spreads out to include a red ring up to 12 inches away from the center.

r For rashes, general itchiness and swelling, you can try over-the-counter antihistamines. Topical cortisone creams can also provide relief. If, after several days, your symptoms are the same or worse, you should see your primary caregiver.

r If you are seeking medical treatment, do NOT pop or pick at anything (your primary care provider will want to see what is draining from your wound).

Make the most of the hunting season with just a few precautions and an eye toward possible problems. Whenever there is a doubt or concern about the appearance of a rash, bite or sting, don’t hesitate to call your primary care provider for specific advice.

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(Dennis Probst, D.O., is board certified in family pPractice and is accepting new patients at Haven Medical Center, 208 East Church Street, Lock Haven, for an appointment call 570-748-0590.)

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