Case by Case

What to do in ten more worst-case scenarios, from getting bitten by a brown recluse to getting caught in a dust storm.

Not everything's big in Texas. Thank goodness for that, because when it comes to insects, spiders, and other creepy-crawlies, we already have more than enough trouble. Besides six- and eight-legged aggressors, the state's residents face other dangers of the wee (not whee!) variety, such as those innocent-looking vines called poison ivy and teeny, generally ignorable particles of dirt that, when amassed in the zillions and moved at warp speed, become a suffocating dust storm. Below are ten examples of Texas terrors, from flora and fauna to illness and the elements, that may be minor in size but rank as major in impact.

Scorpion

As a constellation or a zodiac sign, Scorpio is perfectly fine, but in person its namesake instinctively produces a shudder. Perhaps that's because scorpions are primitive killing machines; they have been around for some 400 million years, longer than dinosaurs. They are venomous at birth, congenitally cannibalistic, and fluorescent under black light. Texas has eighteen species of scorpion. The only one that lives all over the state is the striped bark scorpion, a two-and-a-half-inch-long variety with a sting that hurts but doesn't kill; the only one believed capable of fatal envenomization is the Arizona bark scorpion, a pale-yellowish mini-monster that lives only in extreme West Texas. So far, though, Centruroides exilicauda is only a suspect and not a perpetrator; no known death in the state has ever been attributed to it.

If you are stung by a scorpion:

1) Apply heat packs or ice for pain relief, or take an analgesic (but do not give aspirin to children).

2) Get medical help immediately if the stinging sensation persists for more than a few minutes, or if you feel tingling in your extremities or have difficulty breathing. Small children should be taken to an emergency room regardless of their reaction.

Black Widow Spider

The Lucrezia Borgia of spiders is sleek, beautiful, and sometimes deadly. Unlike most arachnids, the black widow has a body that is not only hairless but also a glistening, solid black. Its legs are long and curved, and on its underside is a distinctive reddish or orange blotch, often—but not always—hourglass-shaped. (That's the female; she's the hostile one.)

The black widow injects a neurotoxin that can produce a systemic (body-wide) reaction. If you are bitten by a black widow, your symptoms may include abdominal pain, stiffness, tremors, sweating, headache, and nausea. In extreme cases, a victim may go into convulsions or pass out.

If—after sorting through old letters, ugly china, and moth-eaten duds in Aunt Mildred's attic—you feel ill and find a red mark on your body that grows noticeably larger and sorer:

1) Call 911 or get medical help immediately. The Texas Poison Center Network is 1-800-POISON-1 (764-7661).

2) Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water and apply an ice pack. You may take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the pain.

3) Lie down, loosen your clothing, and tell yourself—aloud, if necessary—not to panic.

4) Take small children to an emergency room, regardless of their reaction.

Brown Recluse Spider

Also called a fiddleback, the brown recluse spider is, as its name suggests, a quiet and unsociable creature. In a dusty garage or dark closet it blends in much more easily than the glossy black widow; the brown recluse is a fairly forgettable little guy, light to golden or dark brown with three pairs of eyes and a roughly violin-shaped marking on its head. Because of the spider's small size, a victim often barely notices the pinprick feel of its bite and disregards it until a lesion appears, with accompanying pain, hours later. The venom kills skin and tissue, leaving a wound that is a painful, but patriotic, red, white, and blue. The bite will grow deeper and slough off dead flesh. Accompanying symptoms include chills and fever, nausea, weakness, and a rash.

If you suspect you have been bitten by a brown recluse:

1) Call 911 and get medical help immediately. The Texas Poison Center Network is 1-800-POISON-1 (764-7661).

2) Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water and apply an ice pack.

3) Lie down, loosen your clothing, and tell yourself—aloud, if necessary—not to panic.

4) Take small children to an emergency room, regardless of their reaction.

Asp

This isn't the poisonous pet that Cleopatra supposedly used to kill herself. That asp was a snake, and this is merely the puss moth caterpillar, which can be yellow, gray, reddish brown, or a deceptively cheerful lime-green. "It's fuzzy and it looks friendly, but the long hairlike spines are toxic," says Dr. Patrick J. Crocker, chief of emergency medicine for Austin's Brackenridge Hospital. "I've seen grown men bawling from the pain of an asp sting. Usually the only clue, besides the agony, is a big bright welt the exact length and shape of the caterpillar."

If you suspect you've touched a stinging asp:

1) Apply ice, which will help reduce the pain.

2) Remove any spines still embedded in your skin by applying tape over the affected area and pulling it off.

3) Go to an emergency room if the pain doesn't abate within half an hour. Dr. Crocker advises that severe stings sometimes require intravenous pain medication.

Chiggers

Forget ants; these tiny mites are the true bane of Texas picnickers. They actually attach themselves to unwary people, and inchworm their way along the skin until they reach a barrier—say, a waistband—at which point they start sucking juices out of their human host. At the same time, they excrete a fluid that causes intense, nonstop itching. (Doesn't it make you a mite uncomfortable just reading that?) After a few days, they drop off and move on, but they leave behind red spots, often with a center blister, that may remain maddeningly itchy for as long as three weeks.

The best treatment for chiggers is preventive: using an insect repellent with DEET. But if you're so excited about heading out to the outdoor concert that you forget to spray:

1) Use over-the-counter treatments such as hydrocortisone

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