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Bites and Stings

Australia has many insects flying or crawling around, that bite or sting. While you can do some things to help avoid being bitten, bites and stings often happen and you need to be prepared. 

Most insect bites and stings are not poisonous and may cause a mild irritation that can easily be treated. However, some can be more severe and cause more serious reactions such as life-threatening allergy, known as anaphylaxis. It is important to seek urgent medical advice if you experience any of the following symptoms after a bite or sting:

  • fever, wheezing, tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing or swallowing;
  • significant swelling, especially on your face, eyes, lips, tongue or neck;
  • feeling unwell and you develop dizziness and/or vomiting;
  • you have had a serious reaction to a bite or sting in the past;
  • you have an open wound;
  • the bite looks infected, with pain, blisters, pus or crusting;
  • you are stung in the mouth or throat.

Treatment

Although relatively few bites and stings are seriously dangerous to humans, basic first aid procedures should be applied in all circumstances, and then followed promptly by appropriate medical treatment if required. 

St John DRSABCD

St John Ambulance recommends using their DRSABCD Action Plan in assessing whether an injured person has any life-threatening conditions and if immediate first aid is needed. If a person is unconscious or needs emergency medical care, phone 000 for an ambulance and you may need to apply CPR until medical help arrives.

St John DRSABCD Action Plan

D - Danger. Ensure the area is safe for yourself, others and the patient.
R - Response. Is the injured person conscious or unconscious? Ask them for their name and squeeze their shoulders. If there is no response follow the following step - send for help.
S - Send for help. Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance or ask another person to make a call.
A - Airway. Check if the patient’s airway is open, and clear of any objects? If foreign material is present, place the patient in recovery position and clear their airways with your fingers.
B - Breathing. Check if the patient’s chest is rising and falling. Look, listen, feel. Can you hear or feel air from their mouth or nose? If they are not breathing normally, start CPR.
C - CPR. 30 Chest compressions followed by 2 breaths. Continue CPR until help arrives or patient recovers.
D - Defibrillation. Apply defibrillator if available and follow voice prompts.

Simple First Aid for Minor Bites and Stings

Bee Stings and European Wasps

  • Remove the sting by sliding or scraping your fingernail across it, rather than pulling at it.
  • Clean the area with soap and warm water.
  • Apply an icepack for 10-15 minutes on your sting to reduce the local pain and swelling.
  • You can apply an antiseptic and numbing agent, such as Medi Quattro First Aid, which may help to kill germs, relieve pain, inflammation and itch whilst gently soothing damaged skin.
  • Pain-relieving medication, such as paracetamol (e.g. Advantage Paracetamol Tablets), may assist in relieving some discomfort. For stronger pain relief, products which combine paracetamol and codeine may provide further relief. Consult with your Advantage Pharmacist to find out if this product is suitable for you.
  • Where inflammation is present, a non-drowsy antihistamine, such as Telfast 180mg tablets, may be taken by adults to relieve the swelling. Children could be given a liquid form, such as Claratyne liquid to relieve itch and swelling.
  • If the person has an allergy to bee-stings, immobilise the person, apply pressure to the bite and seek immediate medical help.

Mosquito Bites

  • Wash the mosquito bite with soap and warm water as soon as possible.
  • An icepack may be applied to the bite to reduce swelling.
  • Apply an insect-bite cream or gel, such as Stingose or Soov Bite Gel, to the affected area. Soov Bite Gel contains an antiseptic to help prevent infection and a numbing agent to relieve the pain and stop the urge to scratch.
  • Take a non-drowsy antihistamine tablet, such as Telfast 180mg to relieve the itch and inflammation.
  • In cases where your mosquito bite/s are not being relieved by any of the above treatments, your Advantage Pharmacist may be able to recommend a cortisone cream, such as Sigmacort 1% to relieve any further discomfort.
  • Avoid scratching your mosquito bites as this could lead to infection.

Snakes

  • Not all snakes are poisonous however it is always best to seek medical treatment immediately.
  • If you have been bitten, you should stay still.
  • Do not try to suck or wash the area where you have been bitten. Traces of venom left behind on your skin might be needed by medical personnel to identify the snake that has bit you.
  • Apply a broad firm bandage around your bite and splint the limb, if possible. The bandage must not be so tight that it cuts off circulation. If the bite is on your arm or leg, bandage the whole limb to stop the spread of poison. If the bite is on your torso, ensure that the bandage does not restrict your breathing.
  • Your bandage should be left in place whilst you are being transported to medical care.

Funnel Web Spiders

  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Place a firm pressure bandage over the area where you have been bitten.
  • Use a second bandage to wrap your arm or leg and splint your affected limb to prevent movement and help prevent the poison from spreading.
  • You should be transported to the nearest medical centre as quickly as possible. It is best to make as few movements as possible (i.e. be carried if possible).
  • Do not use tourniquets, cut or suck or apply any chemicals on your wound.
  • If the spider can be safely caught, then you can do this. However it is very important to make sure that you or anyone else does not get re-bitten.

Red-back Spiders

  • Red back spiders rarely cause death or serious problems, however you may experience pain, muscle weakness, feeling faint and unwell.
  • Wash the area you have been bitten with warm water and soap.
  • Apply an icepack to help reduce any pain and inflammation.
  • Do not apply a pressure bandage, as pressure will increase your pain.
  • You should be transported to your Doctor as quickly as possible in case anti-venom is required (it is not needed for most people). It is best to make as few movements as possible. In most cases, your Doctor will monitor you, and very little treatment will be required.