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On avoiding and treating bites, stings and blisters

It’s almost summer, and the outdoors beckons. So to be on the safe side, I consulted a few of Stanford Hospital & Clinics’ wilderness medicine experts on avoiding and treating bites and stings from a few of the potentially hazardous critters one could encounter in the Bay Area while hiking, barbecuing or taking a dip in the ocean. I also referred to the definitive tome on the subject, the more than 2,300-page Wilderness Medicine, by Stanford physician Paul Auerbach, MD.

What may have surprised me most is how a safety razor can be used in treating a jellyfish sting. As I write in my article published today:

Rinse the wound with seawater. … Remove any attached tentacles with forceps or a gloved hand. Apply a soak-compress of vinegar or isopropyl rubbing alcohol to the wound for about 30 minutes or until the pain subsides. Then apply a lather of shaving cream and shave the affected area with a safety razor to remove any remaining nematocysts.

Meanwhile, my colleague Sara Wykes has investigated another peril of the active summer lifestyle: blisters. She spoke with Stanford’s Grant Lipman, MD, one of the foremost authorities on the subject. Her article, published today, talks about avoiding and treating those uncomfortable sores, which Lipman notes affect a surprising number of people:

An estimated 10 million Americans go out hiking each year, and at least one in seven will develop the classic blister caused by friction between foot, sock and shoe. The numbers also show that the less experienced hikers are more likely to develop a blister.

Have a question about wilderness medicine or health precautions to take before enjoying the outdoors? Submit it to Auerbach this week via Twitter using the hashtag #AskSUMed. Or type it in the comments section on Scope.

Previously: Ask Stanford Med: Chief of Emergency Medicine taking questions on wilderness medicine and Stanford’s Paul Auerbach writes on treating emergencies mid-adventure

Photo by Joel Levis, MD

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