First aid is the immediate care given to a person who has been injured or suddenly taken ill. It includes self-help and home care if medical assistance is not available or is delayed. It also includes well-selected words of encouragement, evidence of willingness to help, and promotion of confidence by demonstration of competence. The person giving first aid, the first-alder, deals with the whole situation, the injured person, and the injury or illness. He knows what not to do as well as what to do; he avoids errors that are frequently made by untrained persons through well-meant but misguided efforts. He knows, too, that his first aid knowledge and skill can mean the difference between life and death, between temporary and permanent disability, and between rapid recovery and long hospitalization. The following is advice for how to handle common emergency medical conditions. This section does not contain all the signs or symptoms of medical emergencies, and the advice is not intended to be a substitute for consulting with a medical professional. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, seek immediate medical attention.
Bug Bites and Stings
Bug bites and stings are, for the most part, no more unpleasant than a homework assignment — kind of annoying but basically harmless. Occasionally, though, an insect bite or sting can cause serious problems. You should know when a simple ice pack can bring some relief or when a visit to the local hospital is in order. Before you find out how to handle your unwelcome guests, come meet the critters who want a little piece of you. Bee and Wasp Stings
For most people, being stung by a bee is a minor nuisance. The affected area may get a little red or swollen and it may be slightly painful, but that's about it. Bee and wasp stings can cause real problems for people who are allergic, though. A person can get a localized allergic reaction (swelling, heat, or itching of the skin around the bite area) or a systemic allergic reaction, meaning that the poison causes a reaction throughout a person's body, not just around the bite area. In the case of a systemic reaction, the person may break out in hives. Other symptoms include wheezing; shortness of breath; rapid heartbeat; faintness; and swelling of the face, lips, or tongue. If a person has these symptoms, it's important to get help immediately. It hardly ever happens, but severe allergic reactions to bee stings can be fatal if the person doesn't get medical help. Flea and Tick Bites
Fleas can be lumped into the irritating-but-not-serious category as well. They are often found on Fido or Fluffy, but they can also be attracted to you. Depending on where you live, ticks could ruin a good camping trip. One variety known as deer ticks is known to carry Lyme disease, so the trick is to get them off your body fast. In the United States, the northeastern and upper midwestern states are most affected by the threat of disease from ticks, but some cases have been found in the Pacific Northwest and in northern and southern Europe. Ticks can carry other diseases, too, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks are usually found in heavily wooded areas. Mosquito Bites
Mosquitoes hang out anywhere people, food, or pools of still water are found. Generally they aren't anything to worry about: They bite, you itch, end of story. However, there is some concern about West Nile virus, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. The good news is that healthy kids, teens, and adults under 50 are at low risk of catching West Nile virus. And although the virus can put people at risk for developing a serious infection called encephalitis, in reality this hardly ever happens. Less than 1% of the people who are infected with West Nile virus become seriously ill. Spider Bites
Most spider bites are minor, although they can cause mild swelling or allergic reactions. But a small percentage of teens become ill after being bitten by...