With Summer upon us, I thought I would remind people of some of the dangers associated with the great outdoors.

Despite the UK being a relatively safe place as far as harmful creatures is concerned there are some that can cause significant symptoms and even be life threatening.

Wasps, bees and hornets are responsible for several deaths per year. It is not the venom in the sting itself but an allergic reaction to it that is responsible. Approximately 30% of the population have some degree of allergy to the venom. This allergic reaction is not apparent with the first sting, but may develop after more than one sting. In certain individuals a full blown allergic reaction, called anaphylactic shock can occur, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness or feeling faint, a fast heart rate, rash, swelling, and breathing or swallowing difficulties. A friend of mine found himself in this situation after being stung inside his mouth when drinking from a can of fizzy drink. If you are stung and you experience more than local pain and swelling at the site, then medical help should be sought. For those of you with known allergy, ensure your Epi-pen’s are in date!

Picture of an adder Source: adder is the only venomous snake in Britain. It is found in many places frequented by people enjoying the summer weather, ranging from chalky downs, coastal dunes, commons, heathland, moors, banks of rivers and ponds and woodlands. They are not aggressive, but may bite if disturbed. They are identified by a zigzag pattern along their bodies. They are usually brown or grey in colour. The venom is usually not considered to be life threatening, but can be limb threatening and the bite is very painful. Medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.

Lesser weever fish are small (less than 10 cm) sandy coloured fish with a venomous dorsal fin. They spend their time partially buried in the sea bed. It is common for bathers to step on them. The pain is severe and the foot goes red, numb and swells. The most effective treatment is to put the foot in hot water (as hot as possible without scalding) for at least 30 minutes. Spines should be removed without touching them, and the wound cleaned with soap and water.Do not cover the wound.

Jellyfish are common to British waters. Their tentacles can be very long and are capable of severe stings, resulting in pain, blisters, muscle cramps and in severe cases breathing and heart problems. Dead jellyfish can still sting. Remove any tentacles using tweezers and wash in seawater. Vinegar is not recommended, nor is urinating on the sting!

Ticks are becoming increasingly common. They attach to skin and suck blood. I frequently have to remove them from my dogs after walks in woodland or long grass. They are carried by animals such as deer, mice and hedgehogs. They can cause a condition called Lyme disease and should be removed as soon as possible. Wear long sleeves and trousers when walking in undergrowth. Seek medical advice if you develop a circular rash or any symptoms.


Horsefly bites are very painful and get easily infected as the skin is cut. Ensure bites are thoroughly cleaned and seek medical help if they become infected.

Mosquito bites cause itching and swelling, but in the UK are not responsible for the transmission of disease. If you are travelling abroad on holiday do check the malaria risk for the region and take antimalaria medication if required. Also check for any recommended/required vaccinations.

Do look on our freebies section if you would like an insect repellent or sting relief spray.

Enjoy your summer!


Dr Roger Goulds

Dr Roger Goulds has over 30 years experience as a General Practitioner in both the NHS and private sector. He has also worked in health screening and is very keen on early diagnosis and disease prevention. He has a special interest in sports and musculoskeletal medicine and works with professional sports men and women.

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