The nature that surrounds us is beautiful, there’s no question about it. However, the luscious forests and diverse wildlife can hide some toxic dangers. If you love to explore the wilderness or if you plan to bug out into the woods at some point, you should learn to avoid and protect yourself against Mother Nature’s toxic defense.
We have to understand that nature doesn’t exist solely for our pleasure and the native you find out there has an important role in the entire eco-system. All the critters out there are trying to survive, thrive and reproduce. This is why Nature has endowed many of them with various means to do so. They are equipped with venom, poisons and other toxic substances that can harm you or even worse.
Unfortunately, to the uneducated, these toxic dangers are well-hidden or totally unknown. This creates potential problems for hikers, hunters and any outdoors person. Although dangers await for you out there, in most cases there are ways to avoid them and certain steps to take if you have a nasty encounter with nature’s toxic elements.
Dealing with the natives
No matter where you live and what environment you choose to explore, there are high odds you’ll encounter venomous or poisonous animals. Although these two terms are interchangeable by most, it’s better to know the difference between the two.
A venomous animal is the one that delivers its toxins using various body features. The most common example I can give you are the glands and fangs of a snake. However, if you eat the meat of a snake, which is full of protein, won’t cause you to get sick.
A poisonous animal, on the other hand, can be described by something having toxic substances flowing through its entire body. Eating its meat and even touching its outer surface can cause you to become sick or worse.
There are various venomous snakes in many parts of our country and they aren’t always easy to spot. They attack when startled or disturbed and sometimes can appear in your campsite and nestle into your gear. A direct strike from this unwanted guest can have diverse effects on the human body depending on the species. You can feel intense pain in the bite area, it can cause nausea and vomiting, but it can also lead to extreme symptoms.
The toxic substances in the venom can cause numbness of the limbs and drop in blood pressure. Every snakebite should be treated seriously and if not tended properly, it may lead to life-changing results
Amphibians such as the cane toad secrets milky venom through its skin. Anything that it touches or bites will succumb to its harmful toxins. As a general rule, you should avoid brightly colored amphibians since they color usually indicates that they are dangerous to touch. This goes without saying, that eating them is also out of the question.
Dealing with creepy crawlers
The insects you encounter in the great outdoors not only can be a nuisance, but also a hazard to your overall health. There are thousands of spider species in North America, but only about four are considered dangerous to humans. The good news is that even if you get bit by one, deaths are quite rare and it occurs mostly when the person bitten, suffers from various health issues.
The two main spider groups you should avoid are the recluse and widow varieties. The venom of a black widow is known to cause intense pain. The toxic compounds in the venom, more precisely the neurotoxin, is 15 times greater than a rattlesnake’s. The venom of a black widow attacks the nervous system, causing nausea, vomiting, headaches and hypertension.
Suggested reading: Spider Bites Guide – Know Your Spiders!
On the other hand, the toxic compounds found in the venom of the brown recluse, destroy tissue and causes cutaneous injuries. Both bites can and should be treated with antivenin to counteract the toxic compounds.
Since bugs can be a good source of protein in a survival scenario, there are a few guidelines one should follow before eating the crawlers. Hairy or brightly colored bugs should be avoided. Also, avoid tick, moths, flies and mosquitos since these can be carriers of many diseases. Even though most poisonous insects do little harm if ingested, you should avoid taking a bite of the unknown. Especially if you are alone in the wilderness and time is against you. You don’t need the extra stress or irritating ailments slowing you down.
When we talk about Mother Nature’s toxic defense, vegetation can be separated into two distinct categories. The first category is the danger of ingesting a poisonous plant, while the other is your body’s reaction to touching or even brushing up against a plant’s parts (leaves, stem and flowers).
Hunger can make people do stupid things, the type of things they don’t normally do in a comfortable environment. Eating plant material as if you are eating a salad may seem ok in the eyes of a desperate person. However, picking the wrong plants can be highly detrimental, causing various dangerous symptoms such as cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches and hallucinations. However, that’s not all and there can also be symptoms such as depressed heartbeat and respiration, unconsciousness, coma and even death.
The problem with identifying the safe plants to eat is that it requires a lot of study and field experience. For everyone out there having doubts about the plants which may or may not be safe, like I always say: When in doubt, leave it be!
Suggested article: Noxious and Toxic Plants To Avoid When Exploring The Wilderness
Most people spot mushrooms in the wild and they believe they have found a possible meal. Instead, to keep walking, they give it a try and the story usually ends badly for them. Mushrooms can be incredibly poisonous and it can be hard to identify them properly, especially for untrained eyes. Even with a field guide, some people still have troubles making the difference between safe to eat mushrooms and poisonous ones.
Regarding efficient self-defense, some plants took this measure to the extreme. Touching these plants can cause the skin to blush, itch and burn as if on fire. Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are irritating plants you will stumble upon when exploring the great outdoors. Their oils, if not washed out properly, can remain on your clothes active for months.
It’s imperative to cover bare skin while trekking through thick vegetation. You may be able to spot the dangerous plants, but when they are intertwined with low-hanging tree branches or thick grass, they become almost invisible.
The basic knowledge of every explorer
Since not everyone who ventures into the wilderness is an expert on survival or plant and animal identification, there are some things all the weekend warriors can learn. With some basic knowledge of both your surroundings and some what-if scenario preparedness, you can enjoy the outdoors with your family.
Since no one, is perfect and no matter how hard you try to avoid the toxic perils out there, your luck and experience may fail you. To make it out of seemingly impossible situation follow these treatments:
When you eat a toxic plant, you need to get the poison out of your system as quickly as possible. Try to induce vomiting by tickling the back of your throat. This will remove most of the poison from your mouth and stomach. Another alternative is to drink as many clean water as possible to dilute and flush out the poisons. If successful, your body should then be able to handle the remaining poison and you should feel better soon after.
If you brush against a plant with a toxic self-defense mechanism, your skin will burn or become itchy and red. Rinse your skin with cool, soapy water within half an hour of contact. This will help remove some of the toxic oils that touched your skin. You will also need to apply cortisone lotion to calm the stinging pain. You should avoid at all costs scratching the skin because you will only help spread the toxic oils. Within two or three weeks you should soak your skin in an oatmeal-based product bath to get the desired relief.
One of the most common myths portrayed in movies is to suck out the poison when you get bitten by a venomous snake. Please don’t! This will only spread the venom to your mouth and face. Also, don’t cut the wound, ice it or apply a tourniquet. Instead, try to remain calm and step away from the snake to avoid another bite. Sit down and try to relax to reduce the chances of fainting. Remove all tight clothes and jewelry since the venom will cause the bite area to swell. The next thing you need to do is get help and antivenin.
The problem with toxic mushrooms is that no improvised or home remedy can help reduce or nullify the mushroom’s poison. The best and perhaps your only chances is to get medical attention as soon as possible. Some people decide to wait it out and by doing so, they will just allow the toxins to spread and damage vital organs. The sooner you get professional help, the greater your chances of survival.
Nature doesn’t give second chances, and it doesn’t care about your or me. Her beautiful, complicated design has endowed many of her inhabitants with ways to protect themselves. To the uneducated, this can become a serious problem, especially if they don’t know how to stay away from these toxic dangers or how to alleviate their damage. Dangers await unsuspecting victims, but there are always ways to avoid them.