Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Farm Hazards- Spiders

(Picture of golden orb spider by:  robertjenner.redbubble.com )

         Most homes have hazards, and rural homes are no exception.  Farms often have a great many hazards, but people who live on them learn very quickly how to use risk management principles in order to mitigate risks, and to stay safe, while still completing the tasks which are necessary.    We are cognizant that each year, in our rural county, people die in farm related occurrances.   A couple of years ago, an older gentleman who had farmed his land all of his life hit a bump in his heavy tractor and it rolled over on him.  His wife saw the accident and called the medical helicopter to help.  It took neighbors with tractors to remove the tractor which was pinning him.  Unfortunately, he did not survive.  More and more people from our area have been afflicted with Lyme Disease and this has caused not only joint problems but permanent cardiac damage to many of them.  Snake bites, and varietal insect bites also cause their share of problems here. This week it was our turn.  We have too many foxes this year and the numerous bunnies we normally see are all but gone.  It was a matter of time before foxes began to take our best chickens or our ducks.   My eldest son was working in a forested area of the farm when a larger male fox accosted him, and barked at him, as if to tell him to go away.  This is a problem because foxes will occasionally attack human beings, and in an area such as ours, where rabies is endemic, a warning from a fox in broad daylight is a real hazard.   Later, our son saw the same fox stalking one of the chicken cages. We weren't all that concerned, believing that our cages were fox-proof. A couple of nights later, the fox breached the cage for some of our best hens and rooster, killing and taking one of the best hens with him.  Her sisters sat together in terror inside their boxes and their rooster looked for her in bewilderment.  We fortified all our cages.
                Most of the time here, we are armed with either a shotgun or a handgun.  My son was in a nearby area of the farm taking care of ducks, when once again, he was menaced by what he believes to be the same fox.  As it walked toward him from a distance, in an attack posture, he pulled his gun, removed the safety, and fired.  The fox recoiled when the shot hit his chest, and then the fox jumped away.  "I missed", thought my son. The blood spatter he found seemed to indicate he hadn't, though no body had been found.  We usually pour a bottle of bleach over an aggressive animal in the event they have rabies, and then we bury them.  This one could not be found. We wonder if he had a den in the densely wooded periphery where he went to die.  We don't like killing animals, and we try not to do this often, but sometimes it cannot be helped.  Not even two weeks later, the bunnies have rebounded.  Our own animals seem much more relaxed.
            This little interaction was not without cost to our son though. While walking through the forest looking for the body of the fox, in order to sanitize and bury it, he walked through a large spider web he did not initially see.  He was stung by something on his right cheek, just below his eye.  He at first thought, it was a hornet sting, but then as he pulled the torn web off his face, an orb spider escaped.   Our son headed back to the house to take a look at his face, and to put some baking soda on the wound.  We have epinephrine for injection here, but since there was no difficulty breathing, I declined to give it.  I have him Diphenhydramine 25 mg. (Benadryl, in the US and Canada) until it became clear that it was swelling, and then I gave an addition 25 mg.   I also have topical Benadryl, but so near the eye, I used an icepack instead.


                Normally, an orb spider doesn't create such a severe local reaction, but our son is beesting allergic and apparently sensitive to this type of venom.    Despite the Benadryl about every six hours by mouth, his eye was swollen shut by that evening.   We e-mailed his physician who was out of town, but who told us we were doing everything he would be.   That night when our son was uncomfortable enough not to sleep, we made the long trek into the emergency room.     In the interest of a shorter waiting time, we went to a hospital we don't normally visit.   The former military older doctor wasn't impressed, and wondered why we made the trip at midnight.   He was more worried about a tetanus shot being up to date than he was anything else, and he also dispensed a prescription for a powerful antibiotic, and a narcotic, but not for the short burst of steroid for which I had hoped.   We filled but did not use those meds, sticking to our son's regular physicians plan to continue Benadryl every six hours, and use cool soaks.    It took several days for the bite to be nearly resolved. More than a week later, there is still a slightly reddened area in a late stage of resolution.

( Another good spider listing.  This one from  bestcolumbuspestcontrol.com   )

              Here on the farm we know we have black widows, brown recluse spiders, orb weaving spiders, wolf spiders, and likely others which have not yet been identified by us.   One year, our "Jack Russell Terrorist" dog was bitten by a black widow on the tail, and it was swollen so much that it looked broken. She recovered fully.   I was also made quite sick, some years ago by a brown recluse spider bite on the back of my left leg, which occurred while in the minivan, when parked near the woodpile.  I developed a hemolytic anemia, but at first did not equate it with the spider bite, which was quite mild, at first.
            Take a moment to list what types of spiders are a hazard where you are, and what you might need to treat their bites. Remember that even a low risk bite can be hazardous, if the person bitten is sensitive to that particular venom, as was the case with our son and the Orb spider venom.


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