Enjoy the Great Outdoors this Fall

Tent and hammock

As the temperatures slowly start to drop and the smell of autumn fills the air, hiking and/or camping are great outdoor activities to enjoy with friends and family in the fall. Almost all Texas State Parks have camping and lodging options for you – and reservations can be made in advance online or over the phone. Staying safe while having fun can make all the difference in your camping experience. Read on for some of our top safety tips to make your outdoor experience a memorable one. 

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. There may be poisonous plants or plants with thorns or stickers nearby. Stay alert so no one accidentally wanders into them. When setting up a campsite, consider where water will drain in the event of rain. Avoid camping in creek beds or over ditches where water may pool. 
  2. Keep an eye on children. Make sure you know where they are and what they’re doing. If camping with children, set up your campsite away from potential dangers like rivers, creeks, or steep drop-offs. 
  3. Keep a safe distance from and never feed the wildlife. While they may look cute, wild animals are unpredictable and can carry diseases. Feeding wildlife can encourage bad behavior and decrease their ability to fend for themselves. 
  4. Be careful with fire. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure your campfire is completely extinguished when you leave. Know the specific rules related to campfires where you are and follow them. 
  5. Be prepared. A great trip starts with being prepared. Make sure to consider things like how long you’ll be camping, what the weather will be like, and how much you can carry when planning what to bring with you. 

Interested in camping but don’t know where to start? You and your family can learn the basics through camping workshops with Texas Outdoor Family. For more information, click here.

Basic First Aid

It’s a fact of life: accidents happen. Below are some basic first aid tips for the most common types of injuries or ailments you could experience while enjoying the great outdoors:


It’s common to develop blisters on your heels caused by friction from your shoes. If you’ll be doing a lot of hiking, consider applying a bandage to your heels at the start of the day to prevent blisters from developing. If you do have blisters, gently cleanse the area with soap and water. Once the area is clean, cover the blister with a bandage. It’s best to avoid bursting the blister as the skin covering it provides a natural barrier to infection. 

Blisters typically heal within 7-10 days. See a medical professional if you develop a fever or the blister turns red or develops pus, as both are signs of infection. 


Most minor cuts heal within a week. However, if your cut is longer than three-fourths of an inch, more than a quarter inch deep, or won’t stop bleeding, seek immediate medical attention. Otherwise, follow the steps below to treat your cut.

1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
2. Wash the cut to prevent infection. Use cool or lukewarm water and a mild soap or cleanser to gently remove dirt or debris from the area. 
3. If you’re still bleeding, apply pressure using a clean washcloth or gauze and maintain pressure until the bleeding stops. 
4. To help keep the wound moist for faster healing, apply petroleum jelly. 
5. Cover the cut with a sterile bandage to help protect the cut and prevent it from reopening. Change the bandage daily and keep it covered until it heals. 
6. If your cut was from a dirty or rusty object, contact your primary care doctor to make sure your tetanus vaccination is up to date. 

If you notice any signs of an infection, such as pus or increased redness, swelling or pain, call your primary care doctor.


The most common type of sprain is the ankle but wrist, knee, and thumb sprains are also common. Generally, the greater the pain and swelling, the more severe the injury is. For most minor sprains, follow the steps below to treat the injury yourself.

1. Rest the injured limb. Limit putting weight on the injured area for 48 to 72 hours. A splint or brace could be helpful initially. 
2. Ice the area using a cold pack, slush bath or compression sleeve filled with cold water. Try to ice the area as soon as possible after the injury and continue to ice it for 15 to 20 minutes four to eight times a day for the first 48 hours or until swelling improves. 
3. Compress the area with an elastic wrap or bandage. Compressive wraps or sleeves made from elastic or neoprene are best. 
4. Elevate the injured limb above your heart whenever possible to prevent or limit swelling. 

Sprains can take months to recover depending on the severity. The injuries that cause sprains can also cause serious injuries, including fractures. See your primary care physician if your sprain isn’t improving after two or three days. 

Poison Ivy/Oak

While the itching can be hard to deal with and make it difficult to sleep, a rash from poison ivy or oak will eventually go away on its own. Follow these steps to treat the affected areas:

1. Wash all exposed areas with soap and water as soon as possible. Washing within 10 minutes of exposure can greatly reduce the chance of an allergic reaction. 
2. Apply calamine lotion and take oral antihistamines to help with the itching and blistering. 
3. Place cool, wet compresses on the affected area for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day. 
4. Try not to scratch. Scratching can increase the risk of infection. 
5. Wash all clothing, shoes, and other items that came into contact with the plant to prevent more contact with plant oils. 

As treatment usually involves self-care methods at home, you probably won’t need medical treatment unless it spreads widely, persists for more than a few weeks or becomes infected. If you’re concerned, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. 

Bug Bites and Stings

Most bites and stings can be treated at home as the most common symptoms are itching, swelling, and stinging that go away in a day or two. 

To treat a mild reaction to a bit or sting:
– Move to a safe area to avoid more bites or stings.
– Remove any stingers.
– Gently wash the area with soap and water.
– Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the area of the bite or sting for 10 to 20 minutes. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
– If the injury is on an arm or leg, raise it.
– Apply calamine lotion, baking soda paste, or 0.5% or 1% hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. Do this several times a day until your symptoms go away.
– Take an anti-itch medicine (antihistamine) by mouth to reduce itching. Options include non-prescription cetirizine, fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy, Children’s Allegra Allergy), loratadine (Claritin).
– Take a non-prescription pain reliever as needed.

Seek emergency medical treatment if a child is stung by a scorpion or if anyone is having a serious reaction that suggests anaphylaxis, even if it’s just one or two signs or symptoms:
– Trouble breathing
– Swelling of the lips, face, eyelids or throat
– Dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness
– A weak and rapid pulse
– Hives
– Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Take these actions immediately while waiting for medical help:
– Ask whether the injured person is carrying an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others). Ask whether you should help inject the medication. This is usually done by pressing the autoinjector against the thigh and holding it in place for several seconds.
– Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket.
– Don’t offer anything to drink.
– If needed, position the person to prevent choking on vomit.

Camping Etiquette

Safety isn’t the only important aspect of spending time outdoors. Being courteous towards fellow campers and Mother Nature will make your camping experience that much more enjoyable. Here are some top camping etiquette tips to be mindful of:

1. Be considerate of your fellow campers. Keep noise levels down, especially at night. 
2. Leave the area cleaner than you found it. Pick up trash and make sure to check the area for items you may have forgotten. 
3. Keep food out of reach of animals. Always put foot items away after use. Raccoons and other animals will take advantage of your carelessness – and can make a big mess in the process. Check out this post for more information on proper food storage. 
4. Dispose of wastewater properly. Dumping gray water can pollute waterways and attract unwanted pests. Check out this blog post for more information on how to dispose of wastewater while camping. 
5. Camp only in designated areas. If provided, use a tent pad and keep vehicles on the pavement.

Keep these tips in mind when heading to the great outdoors and you’re sure to have a fun, and safe time. In the event you do experience a camping mishap like a sprained ankle or allergic rash, Freestone Medical Center is here to help. Give us a call at (903) 389-2121.