Dealing with Insects in a Survival Situation
Although some insects can be a source of food in a survival situation, they can also be extremely hazardous. Their stings and bites can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions and can carry diseases which, in some areas of the world, can be fatal. Therefore, if you’re a regular outdoor adventurer, you should always make sure you are fully immunised against insect diseases in the area in which you’re travelling before setting off.
In terms of a survival situation, however, the main 2 issues of concern when it comes to dealing with insects are avoidance, i.e. keeping insects at bay and treatment for any bites or stings.
Keeping Insects at BayThe most effective insect repellents usually contain a DEET-based solution which is safe to spray or rub onto your skin and on your clothes. If you don’t have this but can find a citrus based fruit to rub its juices onto your skin, which can work too. Clothing should cover your arms and legs and the darker coloured and thicker the clothing the better. However, you should always check your clothes and footwear and shake them out before putting them on, especially if you’ve been airing or drying clothes outdoors. Likewise, with any sleeping bags or blankets you may have – give them a thorough shake and inspection before using them.
In a survival situation, you’ll need to forage for wood to build a fire and look for food to eat and you should always be careful before picking up logs and stones where insects might be lurking underneath. You’re also more likely to have problems with flying insects such as mosquitoes if you build your shelter near still water such as a lake.
Smoke from a fire is a good way of keeping insects at bay as well. And, if you have a mosquito net or can craft some other kind of cover which can protect you whilst you sleep, do so. Just because you may want to sleep, doesn’t mean the insects do too!
Dealing with Common Bites and StingsInsect bites and stings in the majority of cases only really cause minor discomfort and pain and are more of an irritation than anything else. However, depending on the person and the particular insect, bites and stings can cause a range of problems which can include an allergic reaction, abdominal cramps, hives, difficulty swallowing and, in extreme cases, anaphylaxis and even death.
To treat an insect bite or sting, you should have the patient lying down and keep them warm, calm and still. Keep the wound immobilised and positioned on the same level to, or slightly lower than, the heart. Remove any restrictive clothing or jewellery around the wound. If it’s a sting, you should scrape any stingers away using a safe-edged implement. Don’t try to remove it with tweezers as you’ll end up leaving part of the stinger still beneath the skin. Clean the wound with water and any soap or antiseptic which should always be in your first-aid kit. Then try to use some kind of cold compress to reduce the swelling.
If the bite or sting is severe, make sure you keep checking the casualty to ensure that their airway is clear and that their breathing and circulation are in order and, if necessary, treat them for shock. Also ensure that, once they recover from the initial sting or bite, they do not scratch the affected area no matter how irritating it might be as this can cause infection. To minimise discomfort and irritation, you can cover the area with sap from dandelions or make a cool paste from mud and ashes.
Ticks are usually more of an annoyance than anything else but they can sometimes transmit disease. Get into the habit of checking your body parts at least once a day, as well as your clothes to make sure no ticks or other unpleasant critters such as leeches have attached themselves to you. If you have any oil or Vaseline in your first-aid kit, by smothering the ticks with it, it will cut off their air supply and they’ll then release their hold and you can remove them. If you don’t, you must remove them with tweezers, grasping them where their mouth has come into contact with your skin. If you try to pull them off, you’ll probably find their mouth is still embedded in your skin.
Leeches should be removed in a similar fashion with tweezers. They can be highly dangerous and suck your blood and cause wounds and infection. Dirty water can contain leeches and if they get in your nose and throat it can present a major problem. Sniffing very salty water or the heat from a cigarette can help to get rid of them from your nose and throat.
In survival mode, it’s unlikely you’ll have easy access to expert medical help in the event of a major bite or sting from creatures such as black widow spiders and scorpions, for example. The best thing to do in this instance is simply to read up on the area you’re travelling to, find out what dangerous insects you might encounter there and what to do if you’re bitten or stung by something more dangerous.