I live in rural U.K. It’s the time of year when campers and caravanners come in their droves to our tiny townlets, paddle in the rivers, pat the wild animals, barbecue outdoors and live the good life.
Generally speaking, they do everything that the locals don’t do. So it’s not as if they’re getting in the way. It’s all very jolly and very Ealing classic comedy, except when they find once they get out here, for a week or so, that they have to drive to the nearest large town to get a phone network or decent 3G signal. Small beans for the price of a good getaway.
However, whether you are in the countryside or the city, if you and your kids are playing outdoors in the dirt, getting grubby, building up that sluggish immune system supported only by cola, McD’s and KFC, particularly if you are knocking back the more-than-usual pint of White Lightning, Bailey’s, or Chateauneuf du Pape, there are things to keep at the back of your mind that us bumpkins who were brought up on bouts of outdoor-related jungle bottom, projectile vomiting, vermin encounters, bites and splinters of varying sizes, are used to, as par for the course.
Get tetanus shots. They’re free. You won’t get lockjaw. You won’t feel terror when you get scraped by that rusty nail climbing over the stile. If there isn’t a stile, you could be on private property. Make sure the owner knows they’re expecting you, as the countryside often comes with large dogs, licensed firearms, and occasionally bored bullocks who like a challenge.
That black thing stuck in your skin may be a tick. They hate neat tea-tree oil – a few drops applied directly will kill it overnight, or loosen it enough to remove with tweezers. Don’t throw it back in the grass. Flush them down the toilet or put them in the garbage. Horrible things. If a red mark is still visible after a week to 14 days, go IMMEDIATELY to the doctor for antibiotics, as this may be the onset of Lyme Disease – common in areas where there are deer, such as the New Forest.
Leeches are easier to remove, and range from the long black wiggly sort, to little red threads, to small brown leaf-shaped things. Can be found in both saltwater and freshwater locations. Less likely to transmit an infection, but treat any ongoing residual marks or inflammation as you would a tick bite – see your doctor. It is not necessary to bring the culprit with you as evidence, and the doctor might not appreciate this either.
The best way to avoid insect bites is to take Mosi-guard, Autan or Jungle Formula – any good recognised insect repellent – and USE it. Mix it in your sunblock cream to save time if you must, and apply every morning, and before bed – I found this worked brilliantly when I was in Rhodes, where the mosquito is rampant. Anywhere with ponds, lakes, fishing is likely to be a mosquito haven, as the larvae mature in water.
Horsefly bites are very unpleasant. They can inflame an entire limb up to the joint, and cause infections. Make sure you take plenty of Savlon and antihistamine/Piriton with you. Savlon and Germolene also come in handy for those burns sustained while cooking on an unfamiliar stove, or outdoors, especially one-handed while trying not to spill your beer/cider/Jacob’s Creek.
You are unlikely to encounter a giant pirahna while holidaying in the U.K. I would like to quash any rumours that anyone known to me has released one into the wild after outgrowing its tank. It can be seen happily re-homed at a Reptile Centre in South Wales. And it only eats cucumber mostly. In fact I believe it was a Pacu.
Your children may be mixing with other children during the holidays. Hooray! Discreet nit-comb checks may remove another added concern before returning home, unless your child has spent the summer under a sports hoody.
If your children have been enjoying one another’s company in town, our cities do have vermin, and it’s wise to know what they may have come into contact with while exploring. In the U.K, bubonic plague and rabies are virtually unknown, but rats do carry something called Weil’s Disease or Leptospirosis – which is passed via the animal’s urine, so the animal itself does not need to be present for infection to occur. It need not be said that skip-diving and rummaging in garbage is probably not a healthy holiday pursuit. It can lead to kidney failure, and in a few cases, has been fatal. Starting with flu-like symptoms, it is advisable to see a doctor immediately that any contact has been suspected.
Cat offerings left in dirt, and pets in general, come with their own pets, ranging from bitey things, wiggly gastrointestinal-tract things, to fungal things. Ringworm or Dermatophytosis is awesome to look at under your doctor’s special light which will make you believe you are turning into a werewolf at full moon, but a pesky itchy thing that won’t heal up, so if you can’t find your mum’s extra-strong Canesten, the GP will give you some nice fungicide to clear it up. Highly contagious, rather like impetigo, and may need a second treatment as it can recur – being a spore-based infection.
Spider-bites and adder-bites are EXTREMELY rare, but do occur. Go immediately to the nearest major A&E – smaller hospital MIUs (Minor Injury Units) are not equipped for this. Although our local spiders are not known to be vicious, some do have venom, not to mention those that have somehow avoided the Reptile Centre and are currently ‘between owners’. The same is to be said for ‘hobo’ pythons, and escaped tigers, the Beast of Bodmin, that black thing photographed stalking sheep in Aberdeenshire, wild boar (which always have right of way on ANY footpath), and cows. Cows do not have a reverse gear. If you come across cows, either on foot or en vehicle, it is considered polite to give way. A solitary cow is a rather smelly trampling machine. A herd is the equivalent of a road-roller. Nothing is that important that needs to be arrived at quicker, than your destination not covered in hoofmarks and cowpat. And contrary to appearances, females HAVE been known to stampede, or charge, and can be as territorial as bulls.
If you come across something of man-made origin, such as a discarded hypodermic needle, metal or glass of any kind, remove IMMEDIATELY if possible, and wash the wound under soapy running water. Cover and bandage the area with gauze, and if unable to remove object, pad around it and do not flex if at a joint – keep immobile, and cover lightly with gauze without touching point of entry. Take the item bagged-up with you if removed, and go directly to a major A&E. Any suspect item may need to be tested for substances.
The summer of 2011 has already had a lot to answer for. Don’t let a little untreated scratch ruin yours.