A Summer Survival Guide for Common Outdoor Injuries and Ailments

Camping has its downsides. They’re not enough to keep committed campers from the outdoors, but they can put a damper on a camping trip. Some of the most common problems you’ll face in the outdoors are injuries and illness. Today we’re taking a look at how to treat and prevent some of these issues. Read on for a summer survival guide for common outdoor injuries and ailments.

Mosquito Bites

mosquitos cover a male hiker's arm

Mosquitoes might be among nature’s tiniest pests, but they’re also the most notorious. Swarms of these tiny bugs can quickly turn a camping trip from good to bad. To complicate matters, not all people respond to mosquito bites in the same way. For most people, a mosquito bite is just a small (but annoying) bump with a short-term itch. But for people who are allergic to mosquitoes, they can produce large welts that itch for an uncomfortably long time. (There’s actually a name for this, it’s called skeeter syndrome.)

If you develop a fever after getting mosquito bites, it’s best to seek medical attention. If you have just ordinary mosquito bites however, there are a few remedies. If possible, apply ice to the bite to relieve the inflammation and itching. Or apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the bites. And no matter what, try not to scratch mosquito bites. It can break open the skin and lead to an infection.



Insect Stings

a camper's hand swells after being stung by a bee

Bees, wasps, and hornets all have the ability to sting. If you get stung, most of the time it’ll be painful but not dangerous. About 3 to 7.5% of people will have a severe allergic reaction to a sting. If that happens, call 911 or seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include hives, difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, and swelling of the throat.

If you’re like most people and don’t have an allergic reaction, stings can usually be taken care of at home. Bees (not wasps) leave their stingers in the skin when they sting. Try to remove the stinger if possible. Then apply a cold compress to the area. Hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, and over-the-counter pain relievers can all help reduce the pain and swelling.


Prevention: Keep drinks and food covered when eating outdoors to avoid attracting insects. These are great for keeping canned drinks covered.


Sometimes you just can’t help it. You slather on the sunscreen before you head outdoors, but then forget to reapply. Or the waters washes it off when you’re swimming and paddling. Or maybe your sunscreen wasn’t very effective in the first place. Depending on skin type, sunburn is something most people experience. (And even if your skin doesn’t burn, it still needs protection from harmful UV rays, so don’t skip the SPF.)

If you get sunburn, there are a few things you can do to make it less painful and heal more quickly. First, take a cool shower to help relieve the pain. Then apply a thin layer of aloe vera. It will reduce the pain by cooling your skin plus it’s been shown to have anti-inflammatory compounds that help the skin heal. If your pain is too much, consider taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin too.



Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac

What do Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac look like

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all have the same painful result when they come in contact with skin: a red, itchy rash. The rash comes from an oil that’s on the leaves of the plant. Identifying these plants can be tricky, especially because their appearances change throughout the year and they don’t always take the same form. For instance, poison ivy can be a trailing vine or a small shrub. This helpful video gives some good tips for identifying all three of these plants.

How To Get Rid Of Poison Ivy

If you brush against poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac (or think you did), it’s a good idea to wash the affected area with soap and water right away to remove as much of the oil as possible. (And if the oil got on clothing, be aware that it can rub off on your skin.) It usually takes about 12–48 hours for the skin to react to these poisonous plants.

The bad news is that these plants can cause a rash that lasts up to 2 weeks! The good news is that most cases go away on their own without needing a visit to the doctor.

How To Treat Poison Ivy

In the meantime, there are things you can do to ease the pain and itching. First, you can apply cool, wet compresses to the area a few times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. The same topical creams that work for insect bites can also be used for poison ivy such as calamine lotion and anti-itch treatments. If you have a very severe rash, it’s widespread, or if it’s on your face (especially in or near your eyes), it’s a good idea to see a doctor.




Q. What does Poison Ivy look like?

a close up of poison ivy

A. Poison Ivy typically grows as a small shrub or vine along the ground, or climbing along other low plants, poles, or trees. Most people identify the plant by its distinctive 3 leaves, and is found in most areas of the US, with the exception of Hawaii, Alaska, and certain sections of the West Coast. The appearance of Poison Ivy changes throughout the season. In the Spring the leaves are a reddish color, they are green in summer, and may appear as yellow, orange, or red in the Fall.

Heat Exhaustion

A hiker struggles with heat exhaustion

A common—but easily overlooked—summertime ailment is heat exhaustion. While not as serious as heatstroke, heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heatstroke if not treated properly. (If you or someone you know is showing signs of heatstroke, call 911 or seek medical help. Symptoms may include: a body temperature of 104°F+ after being in a hot environment, altered mental state such as confusion or slurred speech, nausea, rapid breathing, and flushed skin.)

High temperatures, humidity, extended sun exposure, and physical activity can all cause the body to overheat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: faintness, nausea, weak pulse, dizziness, excessive sweating, and muscle cramps. Fortunately, it’s both treatable and preventable.

To treat heat exhaustion, head to an air-conditioned place to rest or somewhere cooler and in the shade. Then drink plenty of cool water or a sports drink like Gatorade to help your body recover. If you’re near water, it also helps to get wet so your body will cool off as the water evaporates.


Prevention: Stay hydrated and avoid intense physical activity during the hottest part of the day.