General safety advice


Preparation and things to take when you go out

While dressing to leave the house:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long sleeved tops and trousers.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin – repellents that contain 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide) are most effective.
  • Avoid using products with strong perfumes, such as soaps, shampoos and deodorants – these can attract insects.

Always take the following in your pocket:

  • Tick remover tweezers. Tick remover tweezers are also ideal for removing bee stingers, hairy caterpillars and thorns.
  • Disinfectant wipes. Any cut, sting or injury should be disinfected as soon as possible to reduce the risk of infection.

General advice when out in the countryside

  • A general rule of thumb should be to look, but don’t touch, unless you have to.
  • Do not rip leaves off plants and shred them as you walk along. Apart from being harmful to plants, this will potentially expose you to stinging toxins from the leaves, biting insects which could give you serious diseases, or caterpillars that could give you a very painful rash.
  • Never eat things you find growing in the countryside.
  • Always wear shoes when outdoors. This will protect you if you happen to step on anything harmful such as stinging leaves, biting insects or a snake.
  • Cover your legs with clothing, even in summer; it is not worth the risk of being bitten by a tick. This precaution will also protect you from nettles and other stinging plants.
  • Remain calm and move away slowly if you encounter wasps, hornets or bees – do not wave your arms around or try to swat them.
  • Be careful around flowering plants, rubbish, compost, stagnant water, and in outdoor areas where food is served.

When to get medical advice

Sometimes you may not be sure what has bitten or stung you. The following safety advice applies to all cases of bites or stings.

Contact your GP or call NHS 111 for advice if:

  • you’re worried about a bite or sting
  • your symptoms don’t start to improve within a few days or are getting worse
  • you’ve been stung or bitten in your mouth or throat, or near your eyes
  • a large area (around 10cm or more) around the bite becomes red and swollen – your GP may refer you to an allergy clinic for further tests or treatment (read about treating allergies)
  • you have symptoms of a wound infection, such as pus or increasing pain, swelling or redness – you may need antibiotics
  • you have symptoms of a more widespread infection, such as a fever, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms

When to get emergency help

Dial 999 for an ambulance immediately if you or someone else has symptoms of a severe reaction, such as:

  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • a swollen face, mouth or throat
  • nausea or vomiting
  • a fast heart rate
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • difficulty swallowing
  • loss of consciousness

Emergency treatment in hospital is needed in these cases.

Additional information

Source: NHS Choices

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