New Hampshire - Outdoor Safety
RV Guide


Camping Safety Tips

Hiking Safety Tips

Mercury in NH's Freshwater Fish

Swimmer's Itch

Precautions Against Mosquitoes

Wildlife, Rabies, & You!

Poisonous Plant Listings

Camping Safety Tips

  • Pack a first aid kit.
  • Bring emergency supplies.
  • Learn the ABC's of treating emergencies.
  • Arrive early.
  • Check for potential hazards.
  • Inspect the site.
  • Build fires in a safe area.
  • Make sure your fires are always attended.
  • Pitch your tent in a safe spot.
  • Dispose of trash properly.
  • Be cautious when using a propane stove
  • Watch out for bugs.
  • Beware when encountering wildlife.
  • Beware of poisonous plants.
  • Practice good hygiene.

Hiking Safety Tips

  • Before starting out, do warm-up exercises.
  • Start out slowly.
  • Bike only on marked trails.
  • Leave your itinerary with a friendor family member and check in with them upon your return.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat or visor.
  • Bring sunscreen no matter the season.
  • Bring a customized first aid kit.
  • Take frequent rests.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Pack carbohydrates-energy bars, granola, candy, or fruit.

Mercury in NH's Freshwater Fish

What is Mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that has many forms, including elemental mercury used thermometers, inorganic mercury used in certain paints and pesticides,and organic mercury, which is sometimes found in fish.

How does mercury get into freshwater fish?

Small microorganisms living in the sediments and water convert inorganic mercury into the more toxic organic form. Mercury is part of the concern because it can accumulate in fish at levels many times greater than in the surrounding water. Small fish and other organisms living in the water can take up mercury. When larger fish eat the smaller fish, much of the mercury present in the small fish will be absorbed and stored in their bodies. Therefore, large fish at the top of the food chain, like bass and pickerel, can collect a relatively large amount of mercury.

How can mercury affect my health?

Mercury has no purpose in the human body and when taken into the body may pose a danger to human health. The low levels of mercury found in New Hampshire fish do not cause immediate sickness. Mercury can, however, build up in the body over time from ingesting contaminated fish. Exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus.

Young Children and Unborn Children

Children are more sensitive to mercury because their nervous systems are still developing and more of it passes into their brains where it interferes with normal development. A pregnant woman may pass mercury to her unborn child through the placenta or a breastfeeding mother may pass mercury to a nursing child through the breast milk. Typical adverse effects that have been observed in children exposed to elevated levels of mercury include delayed development, for example, a delay in the time it takes before a child begins to walk.

General Population

The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury. In the general population, the health effects associated with ingesting elevated amounts of organic mercury include tingling or numbness in the hands, feet or around the mouth. Vision and hearing may also be affected.

How do we know mercury is a problem in freshwater fish?

Since 1990 more than 500 fish have been sampled and tested from approximately 100 lakes, ponds and rivers. Sample results have shown that levels of mercury found in freshwater fish may be potentially harmful.

There are typically only a small number of fish -usually less than five per lake- that are sampled from any given lake making it difficult to conduct a specific assessment on any given water body. Because a wide range of water bodies were sampled across the entire slate, these results are anticipated to provide a fairly representative picture of fish mercury levels throughout New Hampshire. Sample results have shown elevated fish mercury levels to occur in lakes/ponds located in remote

pristine areas as well as more developed areas which indicates the problem is more wide spread and not just limited lo certain locally impacted water bodies.

If fish may be contaminated should I stop eating freshwater fish?

The public is encouraged to continue eating fish as part of a healthy diet. Fish are high in protein and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. A diet low in fat contains fewer calories. Eating fish may play a part in reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. To reduce the exposure to mercury, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you limit the amount of freshwater fish in your diet according to the guidlines listed below:

Woman of childbearing age - One 8oz meal per month

Children under six years of age - One 8oz meal per month

All other consumers - Four 8oz meals per month

Swimmer's Itch

What causes swimmers itch?

Swimmers itch is a condition that results when the larval form of a waterfowl parasite (called cercariae) accidentally penetrate into the skin of sensitive individuals. The parasites die, but cause an allergic reaction.

What are the symptoms of swimmers itch?

A reddened spot appears where the parasite attempts to penetrate the skin, much like a mosquito bite. The spot may increase in size and become raised, and is usually accompanied by itching. The symptoms disappear in a few days to a week.

Is swimmers itch a health hazard?

No. The swimmers itch organism is not parasitic to humans and causes no human diseases. No treatment is required for the rash, the rash will go away naturally in a few days, and there are no lasting effects. The itching can be controlled by the same lotions used for mosquito bites and other itching rashes.

Is swimmers itch related to water quality?

No. The presence of swimmers itch is not related to pollution or poor water quality. It is a natural life cycle. Although it has been present in the state for many years, it has never been a significant nuisance problem in most New Hampshire lakes.

Is there any way to prevent the appearance of swimmers itch?

No. Although very few New Hampshire lakes have had reported cases of swimmers itch, there is no guaranteed way to prevent their occurrence. There is, however, a step that will reduce the likelihood of their presence. That step is Don't Feed the Ducks. And don't import or raise ducks or geese along the shore. Ducks are a common adult host of the parasite and the appearance of the parasite is frequently associated with a duck population that is artificially enlarged because of feeding and that congregates near people because of feeding.

How can I avoid swimmers itch?

If the organism is already present in your lake, the following steps can be taken to reduce the chances of encounter.

  • Avoid swimming in the area of reported encounters. The cercariae are weak swimmers and generally remain in the area of infected snails, although the wind may distribute them around smaller lakes.
  • Swim in deeper water. The cercariae are usually found in shallow waters and most easily attach to relatively inactive bodies. Babies sitting along the shore are most vulnerable.
  • Vigorously towel your entire body immediately upon leaving the water. This will brush off any cercariae that may be on the skin and which frequently don't attempt to penetrate the skin until they begin to dry out. If available, taking a quick shower will accomplish the same thing.
  • Use a waterproof sunscreen. This forms a chemical barrier that may discourage the cercariae.

*From the NH Department of Environmental Services

Personal precautions against mosquitoes: West Nile Virus

What can I do to reduce my risk of becoming infected with West Nile virus?

From June to October, when mosquitoes are most active, take the following precautions:

  • Protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks should be worn if outside during evening, nighttime and dawn hours, because that is the time when mosquitoes are most active and likely to bite.
  • If outside during evening, nighttime and dawn hours, consider the use of an insect repellent containing 10% or less DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) for children and no more than 30% DEET for adults.
    • Do not use DEET on infants or pregnant women. (Instead: avoid outdoor activities during peak biting times, wear covering clothing and use netting/screens to preclude mosquito bites.)
    • Do not allow young children to apply DEET themselves.
    • Do not apply DEET directly to children. Apply DEET to your own hands and then put it on the child.
    • Avoid putting on the hands of children or near their eyes and mouth.
    • Do not spray directly on the face, spray into the hands first and then apply to the face.
    • Do not apply to cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
    • Do not use under clothing.
    • Do not spray DEET-containing products in enclosed areas.
    • DEET is effective for approximately four hours. Avoid prolonged or excessive use of DEET. Use sparingly to cover exposed skin and clothing.
    • Wash all treated skin and clothing after returning indoors.
    • Store DEET out of reach of children.
    • Vitamin B, ultrasonic devices, incense and bug zappers have not been shown to be effective in preventing mosquito bites.

What can I do around my home to help reduce exposure to mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Weeds, tall grass, and bushes provide an outdoor home for the adult mosquito commonly associated with West Nile virus. Mosquitoes can enter homes through unscreened windows or doors, or broken screens. Here are some steps that you can take:

  • Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace all screens in your home that have tears or holes.
  • Remove all discarded tires from your property. The used tire has become the most important domestic mosquito producer in this country.
  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers. Do not overlook containers that have become overgrown by aquatic vegetation.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left out of doors. Drainage holes that are located on the sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed in.
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Tightly screen "rain barrels" to ensure mosquitoes can't deposit eggs in or on water.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and covered.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens are fashionable but become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows and change water in bird baths at least twice weekly. Both provide breeding habitat for domestic mosquitoes
  • Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property. Use landscaping as needed. Mosquitoes will develop in any puddle that last more than 4 days.
  • Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.

Please Note: Although certain pesticide products are available for sale in the market place to control mosquito larvae, one must obtain a special permit from the Department of Agriculture, Division of Pesticide Control to be able to apply pesticides to any surface waters in the state of New Hampshire. Questions regarding how to apply for such special permits may best be directed to the New Hampshire Deparment of Agriculture, Division of Pesticide Control at 603-271-3550.

What is the State doing to address the possible presence of West Nile virus?

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, along with other City, State and federal agencies, has developed a plan to assess for the presence of West Nile virus and to find and control the kind of mosquitoes known to carry the virus. This plan includes trapping and testing mosquitoes in selected areas throughout the state, testing dead birds and other animals, and human surveillance. If West Nile virus is found, focused and limited applications of pesticides may be needed to prevent the spread to people.

What health risks are posed to people and pets from pesticides?

If the West Nile Virus is detected in New Hampshire and control measures are needed pesticide application will be recommended; the products that will be applied will be used according to integrated pest management guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the small amounts used, these pesticides would pose negligible risks to people and to pets. Residents will learn about spraying schedules through different mechanisms that may include public service announcements, the media, the DHHS /DES websites, a telephone information line and local authorities.

Should I report dead birds?

The Local Animal Control Officers, Health Officers and The Department of Agriculture are taking reports on dead bird sightings within New Hampshire. While we are interested in collecting information about all dead birds as part of our efforts to understand West Nile virus, we may not be testing every dead bird reported, crows are of particular interest. The Department will only be collecting a sample of all the dead birds reported. However, we encourage New Hampshire residents to report all dead bird sightings to assist the department's monitoring efforts.

If you do not receive a phone call from your Animal Control Officer, Health Officer or the Department of Agriculture to arrange pick up or delivery of the dead bird, within 24 hours of making the report or by the next business day, please carefully dispose of the dead bird. West Nile virus has never been shown to spread directly from birds to people, however dead birds should not be handled with bare hands. Bury the dead bird using gloves or a shovel to avoid direct contact.

Wildlife, Rabies, & You!

Rabies is an acute viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It is a disease passed from animal to animal by bites. Humans can get the rabies disease as well and, if untreated, it is almost always fatal. Rabies is found most often in skunks, raccoons, bats, woodchucks, foxes and other carnivores.

Rabid animals are not always easy to identify. Contrary to what you may think, not all rabid animals foam and drool at the mouth. Animals may stagger, appear restless, be aggressive, appear very friendly, exhibit a difference in their barks or howls, seem to be choking - or they may show no signs of the disease at all.

How Humans Get Rabies

Rabies is generally transmitted from an infected wild or domestic animal by:

  • a bite
  • a lick to open wounds or cuts
  • nerve tissue or saliva introduced into cuts or the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, or mouth.

Protect Yourself

If you think you have been exposed, seek medical advice immediately! To save an infected person's life, treatment must begin between the exposure and the start of symptoms -known as the incubation period.

Since the advent of mandatory pet immunization for rabies (effective January 1993 all cats must be immunized, too), the disease has been found primarily in wildlife populations. However, now that you, understand how the disease is transmitted, you can easily see how your unimmunized pets could expose you to the virus. Obey all local leash laws. If your dog or cat is involved in a fight it could come home with disease-bearing saliva on its fur, you need to be prepared. Keep a pair of latex or rubber gloves nearby and use them as you examine and confine your pet. Discuss further action with your vet.

Here's a list of some precautions you can take to reduce the possibility of exposure.

  • Vaccinate your pets -vaccine is available for dogs, cats, ferrets, cattle, horses and sheep.
  • Stay away from stray animals
  • Avoid contact with all wildlife - even innocent appearing baby raccoons can be rabies positive.
  • Discourage wild animals from dining around your home - do not leave pet food outdoors and secure garbage can lids.
  • Teach your children to stay away from wild animals and pets other than their own. Teach them to tell you about any animal that has scratched or bitten them.
  • Don't touch dead animals -if it is absolutely necessary , wear rubber or latex gloves.
  • Let your doctor determine whether an exposure to rabies has occurred.
  • Do not try to make that determination yourself.
  • Know that there are safe and effective vaccines for persons exposed to rabies.
  • Know what to do if you are exposed to rabies.

What to do if you are exposed to rabies

  • Exposure to the rabies virus is not fatal when treated in time. Modern treatment consists of a series of five shots in the arms over a period of weeks and a dose of anti-rabies globulin at the start of the treatment. It's relatively painless - seek treatment as soon as possible.
  • If you are exposed wash the wound or affected area for ten minutes with soap and water; if the eye, nose or mouth is affected,flush with water for several minutes. Then, contact your physician for an evaluation. Don't wait for symptoms to develop - by then it is too late to treat the disease and death will result.

* Produced by the NH Division of Public Health Services

Poisonous Plants


Toxic Part


Hyacinth, Narcissus, Daffodil


Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. May be fatal.


Leaves, branches

Extremely poisonous. Affects the heart, produces severe digestive upset and has caused death.

Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane), Elephant Ear

All parts

Intense burning and irritation of the mouth and tongue. Death can occur if base of the tongue swells enough to block the air passage of the throat.

Rosary Pea, Castor Bean


Fatal. A single Rosary Pea seed has caused death. One or two Castor Bean seeds are near the lethal dose for adults.


Young plant, seeds

Digestive upset, nervous excitement, depression. May be fatal.


Fleshy roots

Digestive upset and nervous excitement.

Autumn Crocus, Star of Bethlehem


Vomiting and nervous excitement.


Leaves, flowers

Irregular heart beat and pulse, usually accompanied by digestive upset and mental confusion.


Underground stems

Severe-but not usually serious-digestive upset.



Large amounts cause dangerously irregular heartbeat and pulse, usually digestive upset and mental confusion. May be fatal.

Bleeding Heart

Foliage, roots

May be poisonous in large amounts. Has proved fatal to cattle.


Leaf blade

Fatal. Large amounts of raw or cooked leaves can cause convulsions, coma, followed rapidly by death.



Fatal. A few berries can kill a child.


Seeds, pods

Mild to severe digestive upset. Many children are poisoned by this plant.

Golden Chain

Bean-like capsules in which the seeds are suspended

Severe poisoning. Excitement, staggering, convulsions and coma. May be fatal.

Laurels, Rhododendrons, Azaleas

All parts

Fatal. Produces nausea and vomiting, depression, difficult breathing, prostration and coma.



Fatal. Digestive disturbance and nervous symptoms.

Lantana Camara (Red Sage)

Green berries

Fatal. Affects lungs, kidneys, heart and nervous system. Grows in the southern U.S. And in moderate climates.


Berries, foliage

Fatal. Foliage more toxic than berries. Death is usually sudden without warning symptoms.

Wild and cultivated cherries

Twigs, foliage

Fatal. Contains a compound that releases cyanide when eaten. Gasping, excitement and prostration are common symptoms.


Foliage, acorns

Affects kidneys gradually. Symptoms appear only after several days or weeks. Takes a large amount for poisoning.


All parts, especially roots

Children have been poisoned by using pieces of the pithy stems for blowguns. Nausea and digestive upset.

Black Locust

Bark, sprouts, foliage

Children have suffered nausea, weakness and depression after chewing the bark and seeds.


All parts, especially roots

Like Dumb Cane, contains small needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate that cause intense irritation and burning of the mouth and tongue.



Blue, purple color, resembling wild grapes. May be fatal.


Apple, foliage, roots

Contains at least 16 active toxic principles, primarily in the roots. Children often eat the apple with no ill effects, but several apples may cause diarrhea.



Fatal. Both children and adults have died from eating the berries.

Water Hemlock

All parts

Fatal. Violent and painful convulsions. A number of people have died from hemlock.


All parts

Irritant juices may severely injure the digestive system.


All parts, especially the unripened berry

Fatal. Intense digestive disturbance and nervous symptoms.

Poison Hemlock

All parts

Fatal. Resembles a large wild carrot.

Jimson Weed (Thorn Apple)

All parts

Abnormal thirst, distorted sight, delirium, incoherence and coma. Common cause of poisoning. Has proved fatal.

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