Summer is here, and our beloved trails are alive with floral beauty, and a myriad of insects. While we are out there soaking it all up, it is worth remembering that some of our creepy crawly friends present mild to moderate danger. Most bites or stings are not going to interrupt your run, but a few will cause discomfort if not treated correctly. Here is what you need to know about the many-legged friends who are just going about their daiy business while you enjoy your trail stoke.
We love our bees, and we respect their vital role in achieving biodiversity in our wilderness spaces. But we don’t love getting stung. If you succumb to the wrath of an angry bee, do the following:
- Use a knife, bank card or your fingernail to gently scrape out the sting before cleaning the area
- Don’t squeeze or scratch as you will inject further venom in to your skin
- Remember you can develop a bee allergy at any time, even if you have never had a reaction prior, so seek help swiftly if you experience difficulty breathing and swallowing, or if you find yourself choking or wheezing. Abdominal pain, chest pain, nausea, light headedness, headaches and severe swelling are all signs of a bee allergy.
It goes without saying that if you know you are allergic to bees, don’t venture on to the trails without your EpiPen (adrenalin injection) and/or antihistamine pills. To read a bit more around Bee stings and how to manage them, take a read of this: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322075.php
South Africa boasts many species of spiders, most of which are not dangerous. Only three medically important spiders exist here; the Black Button spider, the Violin Spider and the Sac spider.
Of these three, the black button spider is the most dangerous, as it has a neurotoxic venom that can cause pain, cramps and severe anxiety or disorientation. The black button is found across much of South Africa. These spiders usually stay away from human dwellings and are found under rocks, in logs and bushes. They build a messy web where they often have one or two large white egg sacs. The egg sacs are smooth and about the size of a pea. The spiders are pitch black, often with red on the top of the abdomen. The abdomen is large and has red infusion above the spinneret. When disturbed, they typically drop to the floor in a tight ball with their legs tucked in. Bites are rare and usually occur to farm workers, especially in the vineyards of the Cape, where their hands are routinely in thick vegetation. The venom is highly neurotoxic and causes pain, sweating, nausea, disorientation and shortness of the breath. A bite from a Black Button spider is treatable and anti-venom is available.
If you are unsure of what spider has taken a nibble, it is best to seek help from your nearest emergency room. To explore this a little more take a read of this: https://experiential.co.za/discover/south-africa-s-big-five-of-dangerous-spiders
It is difficult to read the word “tick” without squirming a little. Finding one of these blood-suckers inside a sock or, worse, happy as Larry in your onderbroek or bra after a run, is enough to make you want to change hobbies. But honestly, there is no need to panic. First up, get rid of it. The longer the tick is attached to you, the greater your chances of contracting a disease.
To remove your unwanted stalker, pull it away from your skin gently, ensuring that its head remains attached to its body. The best way to remove a tick is with a pair of tweezers (add them to your trail pack as a permanent feature). Grasp the sucker as close to your skin’s surface as possible, then pull upwards without twisting or jerking. Neither setting it alight nor smothering it with Vaseline is advised as a removal tactic. Both of these methods will cause the tick to regurgitate infected fluids in to the wound. Once you have removed the entire tick, wash your hands and the affected area. A small alcohol swab is a great addition to your trail pack, and perfect in this scenario.
Tick bites present with a black mark or dot in their centre, and tend to be fairly typical. Finding a bite without a tick present should prompt a thorough examination of all bodily crevices, which is a good summer, post-run habit anyway.
Tick bite fever usually develops 7 to 10 days after a bite, so if you have a fever, severe headache or spotted rash, get to the doc for treatment. To read a little more on tick bite feaver, take a read of this: https://www.santhnet.co.za/index.php/important-diseases/frequently-asked-questions/item/413-tick-bite-fever-faq.html
In general, lathering up with a citronella based cream will reduce your risk of insect attack or attachment whilst out on the trails, and an antihistamine cream will assist with most bites or stings, as will a bit of icing.
As we all scratch and wriggle a little at the thought of unwelcome insect encounters during our runs, a question must be posed… Why did Noah not swat those two mosquitoes?
NATIONWIDE EMERGENCY NUMBERS:
When you are in the mountains of SA, make sure you have one or more of these numbers saved in your phone: https://mcsa.org.za/activities/mountain-rescue/emergency-phone-numbers/