The warmer weather brings with it the joy of being outside more in the backyard, beach and park. However, lots of time outdoors means increased exposure to some of nature’s more irritating creatures.
Bites and stings can quickly put a dampener on any day out and can be painful or even scary for little people. Quick and effective treatment is the key to reducing any distress and ensuring everyone can get on with enjoying the day.
Many insect bites will cause redness, swelling and possibly pain or itching. It is important to look out for allergic reactions to bites or stings. In rare cases they may cause an anaphylactic reaction.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- difficult or noisy breathing
- difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
- a swollen tongue
- persistent dizziness or collapse
- swelling or tightness in the throat
- pale and floppy (young children)
- wheeze or persistent cough
In the case of anaphylaxis seek urgent medical treatment.
For most garden variety bites or stings from insects such as mosquitoes, sandflies or ants there are some simple steps to for treatment:
- Wash the area with cold water and soap.
- Apply an antiseptic cream.
- A cold pack can be used to reduce swelling.
- Discourage scratching at this can make irritation worse.
- An over the counter antihistamine can help ease irritation.
If pain worsens, does not ease in a couple of hours or area become infected seek medical advice.
Funnel web and mouse spiders are extremely venomous and emergency medical treatment should be sought as well as the following:
- apply a pressure immobilisation bandage
- keep the victim from moving around
- keep the bitten limb down
- bandage the limb from the area of the bite to the hand or foot, then back up to the body
- immobilise the limb by splinting if possible
For redback or other spider bites, wash the area and apply a cold pack to reduce swelling. See medical advice if pain does not ease.
Bees and Wasps
It is important not to try to pull a bee sting out of the skin as this can inject more venom. Instead, scrape a fingernail or credit card across the sting to try to flick it out.
The above treatment for insect bites can then be applied. Watch closely for any signs or allergic reactions or anaphylaxis.
Ticks should also not be pulled out while they are still alive as this can result in more venom being released or them burrowing deeper into the skin.
A tick can be effectively killed by freezing off with a spray containing ether such as those designed for freezing warts or ice sports injury sprays (available at pharmacies).
You can find more information about tick bites here.
Blue bottle or jellyfish (non tropical) can be very painful. Recommended treatment is immersion of the stung area in water as hot as the patient can tolerate in 20 minute cycles until pain subsides.
For stonefish stings the same treatment is recommended until the patient can get to a hospital where antivenom may be administered.
Tropical jellyfish stings on the other hand should not have hot water administered. The area must be flushed with vinegar before a cold pack is applied.
For a comprehensive guide to treating different types of marine stings, read this.
With all these different treatments for different bites it can be confusing, particularly for more serious cases. Here is a handy reference guide to have in your first aid kit or at home.
Obviously prevention is better than cure and it is good to be aware of any potential nasties that could be in the vicinity.Take note of stinger warnings at beaches and check for ticks after walks in bushland. And of course, use a child-friendly insect repellent. There is a helpful guide to safe insect repellent use for children here.