|Insect bites and stings are painful and there are many insects native to the US that carry potentially fatal venom. Dangerous biting insects include spiders such as the black widow, brown recluse, and some tarantulas; stinging insects include scorpions, wasps, and bees. Children and the elderly are most at risk but even so, stings and insect bites rarely kill unless there is an allergic reaction. Stings in the mouth or throat are also dangerous because the swelling they cause can block the airway. In all cases, avoidance is the best defense.
STINGS AND BITES
A sting is felt as a sudden sharp pain and appears as a raised white patched on a reddened area of skin. A bite is less painful and usually causes mild discomfort and skin inflammation.
POTENTIALLY LIFE-THREATENING RESPONSES TO STINGS AND BITES
This is an allergic reaction to a substance with which the body is ii contact. Bee stings are among the most common cause. Anaphylaxis can develop within seconds and can be fatal.
While one sting is unlikely to cause problems on a major scale for an otherwise healthy adult, several stings may provoke a dangerous response.
Effects of venom
Some venoms kill the cells around the bite or sting mark, are slow to heal, and leave deep scars. In rare cases they can be fatal. Other venoms affect the nervous system and require an anti-venom medicine or they may be fatal.
STINGS TO MOUTH AND THROAT
Any sting to mouth or throat should be treated with care because subsequent swelling may cause difficulty with breathing.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS ON A LIFE-THREATENING REACTION
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen lips, tongue, and throat
- Blotchy skin
- Victim has felt a bite or sting (sometimes this may be described as a scratch)
- Pain, swelling, and reddening over the site of the bite or sting
- Monitor and maintain airway and breathing. Be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.
- If the victim is a known sufferer of anaphylaxis, he may have an auto-injector that contains life-saving medicine. Help him to find this as quickly as possible and, if necessary, help to administer it.
- If the victim is conscious, help into the most comfortable position (this will usually be sitting up).
- If the sting was in the mouth, give the victim an ice cube to suck or frequent sips of cold water.
- Call 911 and explain what has happened, identifying the insect if possible.
- Make an attempt to identify what the victim has been bitten or stung by but do not put yourself at risk.
ORDINARY BITES AND STINGS
- If you can see the sting, remove it by flicking with the edge of a piece of plastic such as a credit card, or with tweezers. Take care not squeeze the poison sac at the end of the sting.
- Wash the affected area to reduce the risk of infection entering the wound.
- Apply a cold compress to the site to reduce pain and swelling.
- Remove rings, watches, or anything likely to cause a constriction if the area swells.
- Advise the victim to see a doctor if pain persists or there are any signs of infection.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Sting left in the skin (if from a bee)
- Reddening, pain, and swelling over the site of the sting
- Person has felt a bite or sting