Whilst most people in Britain realise that bulls are dangerous and that we have a species of deadly adder, few realise that more people have been killed by deer and by wasp stings than by adder bites and bull attacks. Enjoythecountryside.com has compiled a list of Britain’s Dirty Dozen Dangers based on animals and plants which can kill, and a few other countryside hazards, which most often cause harm to children.
To give you an idea of the relative risks, here are a few facts and figures:
Deer cause a staggering 50,000 road accidents every year in Britain, with on average 20 deaths. The deer population has exploded in recent years and they are becoming a serious problem in some areas. The number of people injured by deer attacking in the rutting season is unrecorded.
Between 5 and 12 people in Britain die every year from bee, wasp and hornet stings. The deaths are not caused by the sting itself, but by an anaphylactic reaction to the venom; this is a severe allergic reaction which causes the throat and lungs to close up until it is impossible to breathe. Horseflies spread a range of infections including viruses and bacteria as well as parasites. Death from horsefly bites is very rare, but one case was recorded in 2013 as a result of an anaphylactic shock reaction to the bite.
About 100 adder bites are reported in Britain each year, and a few people have to have the injured arm or leg amputated. The last time anyone died from an adder bite in Britain was in 1975. Many of the injured people have picked the snake up, so if you see a snake, NEVER attempt to touch it!
Over 8 people in Britain catch Lyme disease from a tick bite every day, although the number of deaths caused by ticks goes unrecorded. This disease can cause partial paralysis, heart attack, encephalitis, arthritis and a host of other symptoms which may never fully go away, even after the disease is treated. Ticks in Britain spread other diseases as well, notably Anaplasma and Q-fever, which can also become severe, chronic illnesses.
Another danger which can cause lifelong problems is giant hogweed. It is not known how many children each year are injured from picking it, but the sap causes severe burns that blister every time the skin is exposed to daylight, and this effect can last for life. Worse still, if you happen to touch your eyes after touching this plant, you could go blind. The parsnip plant, and equally innocent-looking yellow wild flower, has a very similar effect if picked. It is wise to teach your children to enjoy looking at wild flowers but never to pick them. Picking wild flowers or pulling up wild plants is also illegal in many places in Britain so, even if you are not injured, you could face criminal charges!
Although there has never been a confirmed death from spider bites in the UK, one person may possibly have died from a false widow spider bite in 2014. Although deaths are virtually unknown, spider bites are painful and do sometimes require treatment with antibiotics or occasionally hospitalisation, and recovery can take a long time.
About 15 people have been killed by stampeding cows in Britain over the last 15 years, and many more injured, often seriously. In almost all cases, the victims were walking through fields where the cows had calves. Dog walkers are at greatest risk since dogs can provoke cows. Remember also that “worrying” livestock is a crime in Britain, and farmers are allowed to shoot to kill dogs for doing this. Keep your dog on a lead anywhere near cows and, if cows do stampede, remember your dog can outrun them, so you need to focus on saving yourself!
Horses kill twice as many Britons as cows each year. Most of these deaths are riding accidents.
Foxgloves which grow wild and in gardens, are in the top ten of all types of poisoning in the UK. They cause at least 190 urgent alerts to the National Poisons Information Service each year. The NPIS provides expert information to healthcare professionals.
Well over 1,000 Britons die each year from accidental poisoning and over 150,000 are admitted to hospital each year. Almost half of all accidental poison consumption happens to children under 5 years of age. The number within these figure caused by accidentally eating poisonous plants is not recorded, but plants and fungi are the third commonest type of poison, after medicines and household products.
Thorns scratches may not seem serious, but on average two people die each year in Britain from tetanus, an infection that can be caught through scratches from plants. There is a vaccination against tetanus, which you should ask your doctor about immediately if you get scratched in the countryside and have not been vaccinated already. Tetanus is not always fatal: there are anything from 3 to 22 cases each year and most people do survive this horrible illness.