How to treat common bites and stings

2017-08-23 06:01

HOT summer weather is just around the corner and there will soon be hosts of insects buzzing around. Stings and bites from bees, wasps, scorpions, hornets and spiders can pose a risk, particularly to young children or the elderly – information from ER24 on the more common stings, reactions and treatments as follows:

Bees, wasps and hornets

Generally, a sting from a bee or hornet will result only in a localised reaction, although it may result in life threatening symptoms to anyone highly allergic to bee venom. Reactions include burning: swelling and redness - treatment for mild reactions: bees leave a stinger behind. Some say not to squeeze the stinger when you remove the sting; rather use tweezers and ensure you remove it completely. If it is below the skin’s surface, leave it there to fall out naturally. For pain and itching, apply ice or a cool compress for 20 minutes to bring relief.

Severe allergic reactions could lead to a life-threatening reaction through anaphylaxis (swelling of tongue, throat, rash, breathing difficulties, abnormally fast heartbeat, etc.).

If auto-injectable epinephrine has been previously prescribed must be administered immediately; lie the person down with their feet elevated and call for an ambulance and medical help immediately.

Fatalities from spider bites in South Africa are extremely rare - most dangerous include black and brown button or widow spiders (Latrodectus species), sac spiders and the violin spiders. The button spiders are neurotoxic spiders as their venom causes widespread effects on the nerves and muscles. The latter two are known as cytotoxic spiders because their venom can destroy cells.

Black and brown widow button spiders are fairly common in homes and particularly in gardens - symptoms - generalised and often intense muscular pain and cramps.

Treatment: medical attention is essential if there are any systemic symptoms. Antivenom to these spider bites is available at hospitals. .

The reaction to a brown button/widow spider bite is usually milder. For adults, this includes a burning sensation at the site of the bite and pain in the regional lymph nodes. The surrounding muscles may feel stiff a tingling sensation.

Treatment: a bite is detectable but does not normally require treatment. The reaction, while unpleasant, should clear up within three days.

Cytotoxic spiders such as sac and violin spiders are known to be aggressive while violin spiders are rarely found in urban areas.

Symptoms: Most often the patient is unaware of being bitten although fang marks are often present. The bite becomes painful between 12 and 24 hours and may develop blisters.

Treatment: patients should seek medical attention if they suspect that a cytotoxic spider has bitten them.

If you’re unsure of what to do call Poison Information Helpline 0861 555 777) or go to your closest emergency room or doctor.

- ER24 Corporate Communications

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