SAFETY IN THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
This article is an attempt to make you aware of some of the hazards associated with any activity in wooded and outdoor areas. While some of the effects can be deadly, simple, easy-to-remember precautions can be taken to avoid immediate injury or long tern effects.
This is a rather lengthy article, but the information is very important.
You may become a little nervous or paranoid after reading this (I know I did) but even though many things can go wrong, prevention for most things is very simple and easy to do.
UV PROTECTION Exposure Category UV Index Protective Actions
Minimal 0, 1, 2 Apply skin protection factor (SPF) 15 sun screen.
Low 3, 4 SPF 15 & protective clothing (hat)
Moderate 5, 6 SPF 15, protective clothing, and UV-A&B sun glasses.
High 7, 8, 9 SPF 15, protective clothing, sun glasses and make attempts to avoid the sun between 10am to 4pm.
Very High 10+ SPF 15, protective clothing, sun glasses and avoid being in the sun between 10am to 4pm.
By taking a few simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of sun-related illnesses:
Limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Whenever possible, seek shade.
Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat and if possible, tightly woven, full-length clothing.
Wear UV-protective sunglasses.
Avoid sunlamps and tanning salons.
Watch for the UV Index daily.
I also recommend tinted lenses, this reduces the UV exposure to your eyes. I often wear UV blocking, yellow-lensed shooting glasses under my goggles.
While you should always take precautions against overexposure to the sun, please take special care to adopt the safeguards when the UV Index predicts levels of moderate or above. Watch for UV Index reports in your local newspapers and on television, and remember to be SunWise! For more information, call EPAs Stratospheric Ozone Information Hotline at 800 296-1996.
Just in case you don't think UV is serious, consider the long-term health risks linked to overexposure to UV radiation:
Skin Cancer (melanoma and nonmelanoma)
Premature aging of the skin and other skin problems
Cataracts and other eye damage
Immune system suppression
For Further Information on UV INdex there's a great US Government site at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nasd/docs5/uv_info.html
To help you determine your own UV sensitivity Banana Boat (makers of sunscreen) have a handly little interactive guide at http://www.bananaboat-sun.com/spfframe.htm
HEATSTROKE, HEAT EXHAUSTION AND HYPOTHERMIA This section was adapted from (belive it or not) Dr. Strangelove's Guide to Staying ALive and Happy on the Playa
This is when your body lacks the requisite amount of fluids to keep it operating effectively. We are made up of more than 90% water, but you don't have to lose very much water to become dehydrated.
Signs of dehydration include dark colored and smelly urine (eewwww), or not having to "go" at all, a rapid and shallow resting pulse, headaches, mild nausea, and fatigue.
The best way to avoid dehydration is, of course, to drink plenty of water and plenty of "sports drinks" containing potassium and other needed salts and minerals. These sport drinks do not replace water. You still have to drink lots and lots of water. The trick is not to wait until you're thirsty. In regards to dehydration, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You should be drinking BEFORE you start getting thirsty. Start the day with two big glasses of water, even before you head out for the field. IF YOU WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE THIRSTY IT IS TOO LATE. You should be drinking all day, regardless of the fact that you are thirsty or not. What you are doing is "topping up the tank" as it were -- maintaining your body's water level in order to constantly replace lost fluids.
In fact, a GALLON of water PER DAY is the minimum required to maintain health (that's right a gallon!); augment that with at least a QUART of GATORADE each day. Carry water with you at all times -- And drink from it often. If you follow this advice, you'll be fine so -- keep an eye on friends, be sure they are drinking enough water and sports drinks.
If you find you're suffering from dehydration: DON'T BE A TOUGH GUY -- Sit down in the shade and spend an hour drinking at least 2 quarts of water. If you don't particularly like water, drink gatorade or fruit juice. (THey're not as good for you was water is, but it's better than drinking nothing.
Avoid caffinated or alcoholic beverages as these are diuretics (dehydrating agents) and only make matters worse.
Dehydration kills thousands of people in North America each year, the sad part is that it can be easily avoided.
Heat Exhaustion (too much body heat)
This is the cause of extreme overheating and can be recognized by profuse sweating; panting, nausea, and headaches. IT can be worsened by dehydration, but drinking water alone will not prevent heat exhaustion.
The best way to avoid this is to get the hell out of the sun before you get it. Prevention is everything. If you are suffering the symptoms, TELL SOMEBODY. Have them monitor your condition, keep them informed as to whether you are feeling better or worse with rest in the shade and water intake.
Sit down in the shade. In the infantry they taught us to soak our (light cotton) clothes with water and fan yourself. It also helps to have somebody else fan you as well. As with dehydration, drink as much water as you can swallow and drink gatorade, too.
IMPORTANT: If you don't feel better within 15 or 20 minutes of rest and water in the shade, seek medical help.
Heat Stroke (deadly overheating) Heat stroke is the number one heat killer. It is a lethal combination of overheating and dehydration. However, much like heat exhaustion, drinking water alone will not prevent heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body looses its battle to keep appropriately cool and hydrated. Heat stroke can destroy the liver, kidneys, heart and brain. The insidious thing about heat stroke is that you don't feel hot (as is the case with heat exhaustion, above), you usually feel cold. Symptoms include chills and even shivering -- despite the fact that the weather is hot. This is your body's natural way of saying, "Hey, stupid, something's wrong". The skin is not moist and sweaty as with heat exhaustion-- but instead cold and dry. Sufferers of heat stroke will look pale. Their cognitive functions are often impaired -- usually noticed first with slurred and confused speech and disorientation. As the condition worsens, people with heat stroke stumble and fall. Not long after, seizures follow, then quickly, VERY quickly, follows coma and death.
Like dehydration and heat exhaustion, stay hydrated! Don't stay out in the sun for long periods of time. Don't mess around, if symptoms arise act quickly (see procedures in Heat Exhaustion above). Heat stroke often hits those who have been drinking alcohol or using drugs as both hinder the body's attempts to stay cool, cause significant dehydration, and often lead to decisions that simply make the condition worse. (Of course, if you're playing paintball, you shouldn't be drinking booze or using drugs.)
Simple First Aid Procedures: If you encounter someone showing the symptoms of Heat Stroke act immediately -- you may have only minutes to save their life! (Don't panic, check the list of symptoms above and make sure.)
Call IMMEDIATELY for medical assistance.
Get a couple of people to help you get the victim into as cool and shady a location as possible. Once there, remove any tight fitting or heavy clothing. Remove their hat.
Make a "mattress" of cotton clothing (get others in good health to volunteer that they are wearing or can locate quickly) 2 or 3 inches deep under the victim and soak it with the coolest water you have available.
Cover any exposed area of their skin with with a single layer of lightweight cotton rags or clothing from other healthy people nearby.
Soak all of the cloth now on the victim with the coolest water you have and have a number of people fan the victim vigorously.
Keep their hair soaked.
Massage the victims arms and legs vigorously to force the cooled blood into the body cavity and the organs therein (the blood in the extremities cools first).
Keep up this process until trained medical crews arrive.
Be sure the victim's airway remains clear and the victim continues to breathe.
Talk to them in a calm and confident manner. Ask them "yes" or "no" questions so that you can see that they are still responsive and conscious.
If breathing or heartbeat stop, be prepared to administer CPR. Loss of breathing usually occurs first -- and assisting with breathing is easy and safe.
The overheated blood in the kidneys, liver, heart, and brain will cause severe damage to these organs, and this is this damage you need to stop.
Hypothermia (not enough body heat) This occurs in colder weather. Many paintballers play in the winter, so hypothermia is a threat. However, you can get hypothermia in the spring and fall when it is cold and damp. Hypothermia is what happens when body is unable to maintain sufficient body heat. Victims of hypothermia feel cold and shiver profoundly. They may get either drowsy (more common) or excited and panicked (less common).
The best way to avoid hypothermia is to dress warmly as the temperature (or night) begins to fall. Just because you're in the midst of winter doesn't mean you can't get dehydrated, either. Dehydration only makes hypothermia worse.
The person who is suffering from hyperthermia must be heated up. Simply putting more clothes on them or putting them in a sleeping bag is not going to work. These things are insulators and like a thermos bottle will keep warm things warm and cold things cold.
Simple First AId Procedures:
Remove any clothing they are wearing that is wet (wet clothes cause further cooling by evaporation) .
Strip them and yourself down to a single light layer of dry clothing (such as underwear and a T shirt) and get into a warm dry sleeping bag with them.
Move around vigorously to produce heat.
Massage their arms and legs to get the warmed blood moving into the torso and head where it is most needed.
Monitor their condition -- if they show rapid improvement stick with it until they are comfortable (not shivering), coherent, and relaxed at which point they should put on warm clothes and get into a dry (and ideally pre-warmed) sleeping bag.
If their condition does not improve within 10 or 15 minutes, send a responsible person for medical help.
You stay in the bag and keep working to warm them.
Warm beverages help.
As always, alcohol makes things much worse.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrefia burgdorferi that is transmitted by a tick bite. The disease can be difficult to diagnose. It often starts with a large red rash at the site of the tick bite, followed by flu-like symptoms and fatigue. Early in the course of the disease, the symptoms often may go unnoticed or be mistaken for the flu, and not all persons develop the same symptoms. To further complicate matters, the symptoms of the disease mimic those of other diseases, so even persons who do complain of flu-like symptoms and fatigue can have any number of conditions other than Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is spread by the bites of Ixodes ticks (the deer tick, bear tick, western blacklegged tick, or black-legged tick, depending on the region of the country). These ticks are much smaller than the common dog or cattle ticks. They can attach to any part of the body, often to moist or hairy areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.
Ticks in three stages of development: larva, nymph, adult.
Photo and illustration © American Lyme Disease Foundation
The symptoms of early Lyme disease include:
a characteristic skin rash (called erythema migrans)
muscle and joint aches
chills and fever
swollen lymph nodes.
Erythema migrans is a circular red patch that usually appears in 3 to 30 days after being bitten by an infected tick. The patch expands (to an average of 5 to 6 inches in diameter) and persists for 3 to 5 weeks. Sometimes many patches appear and vary in shape depending on their locations. The center of the patch may clear as the rash enlarges, giving a "bull's-eye" appearance. In some persons, the characteristic rash never forms or is not noticed, and not every rash that occurs at the site of a tick bite is due to Lyme disease. In some cases, the rash can be an allergic reaction to the tick saliva.
The symptoms of late Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months, or even years after a tick bite and include:
arthritis (usually as pain and swelling in large joints, especially the knee);
nervous system abnormalities such as numbness, pain, facial paralysis similar to Bell's palsy, and meningitis (fever, stiff neck, and severe headache)
irregularities of the heart rhythm.
If you suspect you have Lyme disease, see a doctor, IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT rely on commonly marketed blood tests. These "home tests" are good at detecting the antibodies the body generates but these tests have SEVERE limitations. Don't worry, if detected early enough the disease is COMPLETELY curable.
There is a licensed vaccine, trade-name Lymerix, to aid in preventing Lyme disease. The new vaccine is approved for use in persons 15 to 70 years who live or work in grassy or wooded areas where infected ticks are present. Three doses of the vaccine, given over a period of one year, are needed. Since the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, preventive measures are still necessary.
AGAIN, PREVENTION IS THEY KEY, AND IT'S QUITE SIMPLE
To decrease the chance of being bitten by a tick:
Avoid wooded, brushy, and grassy areas, especially in May, June, and July.
Avoid crawling or burying yourself in leaves.
Wear light-colored clothing, so that ticks can be seen more easily.
Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
Wear shoes that cover the entire foot.
Tuck pant legs into socks or shoes and tuck shirts into pants.
Wear a hat for extra protection.
Spray insect repellent containing DEET on clothes and exposed skin other than the face, or treat clothes with permethrin.
Walk in the center of trails to avoid brush and grass.
After being outdoors, remove clothing. Wash and dry it at hot temperatures. Don't leave your paintball gear lying in a pile for two or three days, wash it as soon as you get home.
Do a careful body check.
Just to let you know, I was bitten by a dear tick while playing paintball in Long Island, NY a few years ago. I didn't get the red ring, but I did get flu-like symptoms. I asked the doctor to check for lyme disease due to the fact that I was in a tick-infested area. Due to the fact that I didn't get the red ring, he felt I did not have lyme symptoms. I insisted and he did the tests, hey, I'm paying for it, do the damned test. The test showed I had the antibodies in my system that are present at the outset of lyme disease and went on antibiotics. The lesson here is, early detection is the key to the cure.
For more information on Lyme disease, talk with your doctor, healthcare professional, or local health department. Other good sources include:
P. 0. Box 7669
Atlanta, GA 30333-7669
American Lyme Disease Foundation, Inc
293 Route 100
Somers, NY 10589
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Infectious Diseases
Atlanta, GA 30333
Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, NM 20857
OTHER STINGING INSECTS
There are far too many species to cover. North America alone has over 140 varieties of bees, wasps and hornets.
However, I do have some practical advice for you.
Most bees, ants, wasps and hornets do not sting or bite unless provoked. Nature had provided these weapons for DEFENCE and many species are not naturally aggressive. So if you knock a nest out of a tree of kick a hive, you're in for trouble.
Most fields are pretty good at keeping nests under control, after all they want their customers to come back. Also, many people are allergic to bee and wasp stings and no field owner wants a lawsuit on their hands.
How do you know if you're allergic to bee stings? As in most things in life there are two ways to do something, the right way and the wrong way.
THE WRONG WAY: Wait until you are stung.
THE RIGHT WAY: Get tested by a doctor.
There is no way to know if you are allergic than to get tested, or get stung. If you are severely allergic a bee sting can cause death. There are effective treatments and allergy shots that have to be administered on a regular basis. They can be expensive, but if you ARE allergic, how much is your life worth?
Whether you're allergic or not, if you do find a nest, leave it alone. Don't shoot at it or try to set it on fire. Tell the field staff. The field staff shouldn't be doing that either. If you're a field owner and there is a nest on your property, pay the money for a professional exterminator. Getting rid of bees, wasps or hornets isn't a simple undertaking and you have to understand their behavior to effectively eradicate them. I have a tendency to let nature take it's course and not kill another living thing needlessly. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of them is to kill them. They can't be relocated or asked politely to move out. The exterminator may even tell you over the phone as to the proper procedures (just to save himself a trip out into the boonies to your field).
Safe2use Insecticides has a nice reference on all kinds of nasty critters.
POISON IVY, POISON SUMAC, STINGING NETTLES, ETC
This is particular nasty. The vines hug along the ground but also climb and intertwine with other plants. Many people who have come in contact with poison oak have claimed it hunted them down. The reality is that it hides well. I suggest you visit the Poison Oak FAQ.
Taken from North Carolina Dept of Transport site.
Poison ivy is the name commonly applied to several species of the sumac family of plants - poison ivy, poison oak, western poison oak and poison sumac. Native to the warmer regions of North America, these plants produce oil within their leaves, flowers, bark and fruits that can cause a rash on human skin known as dermatitis.
Poison ivy is usually found in wooded areas, along fences, walls or around trees and poles. It can also be found around bunkers and huts. They need lots of sun to grow but can flourish in shaded areas. The leaves of the plant are dark green and contain three oval-shaped leaflets. These leaves may be smooth, jagged or rounded and have an oily appearance. Once mature, these plants bear small, waxy, dull white berries. In the fall the leaves turn scarlet in color.
Exposure to tools used in poison ivy prone areas, such as machetes and axes, or direct contact with the plant usually results in a rash. (In other words, if you drop a loader in poison ivy -- the oil rubs off onto the loader and you still get exposed.) The rash can occur within a few hours or within several days after exposure. Symptoms of the rash are red skin, blisters and itching. As these symptoms progress, body swelling and fever may result.
The best method to prevent a rash is to avoid direct contact with poison ivy. This can be accomplished by wearing long sleeve shirts and gloves when playing in poison ivy prone areas.
USE BARRIER CREAM.
If playing in a poison ivy prone area, apply barrier cream. This should be done every day before beginning play and after each hand washing. Using this cream will help minimize the risk of exposure. Ask your local pharmacist.
USE POISON IVY CLEANSER.
There are post-exposure cleansers that help prevent a rash from occurring. Ask your local pharmacist.
They are a nuisance rather than a hazard. However, some people are more sensitive than others, and dermatitis (skin rash) following nettle stings has been reported. Some people claim relief from stings if the juice from leaves of dock species (Rumex) is applied, docks often growing in the same places as nettles.
Interestingly enough there are many therapeutic uses of nettles.
More information on all these plants (and more) can be obtained from Cornell University Poisonous Plants Homepage
Adapted from Healthlinkinfo.com
Tetanus, commonly called lockjaw, is a bacterial disease that affects the nervous system. It is contracted through a cut or wound that becomes contaminated with tetanus bacteria. The bacteria can get in through even a tiny pinprick or scratch, but deep puncture wounds or cuts like those made by nails or knives are especially susceptible to infection with tetanus. Thorn punctures can also cause tetanus. Tetanus bacteria are present worldwide and are commonly found in soil, dust and manure. Infection with tetanus causes severe muscle spasms, leading to "locking" of the jaw so the patient cannot open his/her mouth or swallow, and may even lead to death by suffocation. Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person.
You don't have to step on a rusty nail to get tetanus. Infection in a deep cut, or even a scratch will allow tetanus to breed. The best thing is to rinse out any scratches and cover them with a band-aid. Simple, eh? However . . .
Vaccination is the best way to protect against tetanus. Due to widespread immunization, tetanus is now a rare disease in the U.S. A combination shot, called the Td vaccine, protects against both tetanus and diphtheria. A Td booster shot is recommended every 10 years. Adults who have never received immunization against tetanus should start with a 3-dose primary series given over 7-12 months.
Common first signs of tetanus are a headache and muscular stiffness in the jaw (lockjaw) followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty in swallowing, rigidity of abdominal muscles, spasms, sweating and fever. Symptoms usually begin 8 days after the infection, but may range in onset from 3 days to 3 weeks.
Who should get Td vaccine?
All adults who have not had a Td booster shot in the last 10 years.
Adults who have recovered from tetanus (lockjaw) disease.
Adults who have never received immunization against tetanus.
As always, prevention is the key.
Tetanus vaccine and the combination Td vaccine are very safe and effective. Most people have no problems with either. When side effects do occur, they usually include soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site and a slight fever. As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems could occur after getting a vaccine. However, the potential risks associated with tetanus disease are much greater than the potential risks associated with the tetanus vaccine. You cannot get tetanus from the vaccine.
My wife and I recently had out tetanus shots updated with no ill effects. You know, other than the fact that there's needles involved and I almost frikken' passed out.
Tetanus can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine.
You cannot get tetanus from the vaccine.
Tetanus is caused by a bacteria found worldwide in soil, dust and manure.
Tetanus is not transmitted from one person to another.
Almost all reported cases of tetanus occurred in persons who had never been vaccinated, or those who completed a primary series but had not had a booster vaccination in the past 10 years.
Forty to fifty cases of tetanus still occur each year, resulting in approximately 5 deaths annually in the United States. Most tetanus deaths occur among the elderly.
Approximately 30% of reported cases of tetanus are fatal. In the U.S., most deaths occur in person more than 50 years of age.
People with tetanus may have to spend several weeks in the hospital under intensive care.
For adults, a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) shot every 10 years ensures protection against these two diseases.
Recovery from tetanus illness may not result in immunity. Another attack could occur unless a tetanus booster shot is received every 10 years.
Whew! I never though I'd finish this article!
I hope this helps you be better informed about the dangers in our environment. As you can see with what you've read, much of the dangers are one hundred percent preventable, with a little preparation and common sense you can have a fun day of paintball without worries.
For a printable version of this article click here.
All of the articles in the website Durty Dan's Paintball Information Services are free to use for webpages, school projects, reference and to promote paintball to players and the non-playing public. Credit for the source of the information should be included in the bibliography or references page.