The guide to bites and stings

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The guide to bites and stings

If you are in close contact, there is a chance that an insect may bite or sting, with the initial exchange being painful. These biting and stinging pests include spiders, ants, bees, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks and wasps. Most of them won’t bother if you don’t disturb them, but knowing what to look out for will help.

Anaphylaxis

Occasionally, insect bites or stings can create severe allergic reactions. The whole body can react within minutes to the bite or sting which can lead to anaphylactis.

Anaphylaxis is very serious and can be fatal. Call Triple Zero (000) immediately. You may need to assist the person to follow their ‘personal action plan’ if they know how to manage a known severe allergy. This may include administering adrenaline to the person via an auto injector, like an EpiPen, if one is available.

Spider Bites

It can be difficult to know if a bite from a spider is dangerous or not. Spiders can be grouped into three spider bite groups:

  1. Big black spiders – large black spiders that look like a funnel web. If you are bitten by this, treat this as a medical emergency and call Triple Zero (000)
  2. Redbacked spiders
  3. All other spiders

For redbacked and all other spider bites, apply a cold compress directly over the bite site for 15 minutes to help relieve the pain. Please seek medical assistance if further symptoms develop.

Some general symptoms include sharp pain at the site of the bite, profuse sweating, vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain. There may also be a burning sensation, swelling and even blistering at the bite site.

The St John Ambulance Australia first aid fact sheet for spiders can be found on their website.

Ant Bites

They may be tiny, but their bites or sting can give humans a multitude of nasty symptoms.

Ant species that may pack a punch with their bites/sting include: Bull Ants, Fire Ants, Jack Jumper Ants, Carpenter Ants and Green Ants.

Jack Jumper ants look similar to a Bull Ant, and are one of the highest contributors of anaphylaxis from insects.

If bitten by ants, use a cold pack and soothing cream to relieve a minor reaction, and take oral antihistamines to treat the itch. If pain persists, visit a medical professional.

Bee & Wasp Stings

Wasp and bees are often attracted to sugary food and drinks. It’s best to check open containers before consuming from them. Never attempt to disturb or remove a hive or nest.

For bee stings, do not use tweezers to remove the sting. If the stinger is still in the skin, gently remove it scraping it carefully from the side with the edge of a firm object (like a credit card) and flick the sting out to reduce the amount of venom injected. Wash the affected area with soap and water and gently dry the area.

Unlike a bee, which can only sting once, wasps can sting repeatedly. They emit a pheromone that alerts other wasps to attack.

The wasp sting may leave a raised lump, redness, local inflammation and cause burning pain. Seek urgent medical attention if a child is stung more than 5 times, an adult is stung more than 10 times, if anyone is stung in the mouth or throat, or has a severe allergic reaction.

For less severe stings, clean the affected area with soap and warm water, using a cold compress, pain medication and creams and be alert for signs of anaphylaxis. Please seek medical assistance if further symptoms develop.

Fleas

Flea bites look like small, red bumps in clusters of three or four or a straight line. Like other insect bites, they can also cause an allergic reaction to those who are sensitive to them.

Symptoms may range from welts on the skin through to difficulty breathing. Please seek medical attention when symptoms become problematic.

Mosquitoes

Mosquito bites are caused by female mosquitoes feeding on blood they need the protein in the blood to produce eggs. Scent, exhaled carbon dioxide, and chemicals in sweat, all help the female mosquito choose their prey.

As the female mosquito withdraws blood, it injects saliva into the skin that can trigger a mild immune system reaction. This reaction often results in a bump and itchiness. Bumps may look red and white as well as puffy, or hard reddish-brown. Small blisters may appear, or even dark spots that look like bruises.

If bitten, the bump usually clears up on its own in a few days. In some cases, it may cause a large area of swelling, soreness and redness (particularly in children). If the bites come with more serious warning signs such as fever, body aches and headaches, please contact your medical professional.

Ticks

Ticks are not very mobile but rely on passing animals to both feed on and transport them. A tick attaches itself through piercing its sharp mouthparts into skin, injecting its anticoagulant saliva to help feed without blood clotting. This saliva, especially from the Paralysis Tick may be highly toxic to some animals, and even humans.

Most tick bites result in localised swelling and redness once the tick is removed. It is important to seek urgent medical attention if symptoms such as rashes, headache, fever, tenderness of lymph nodes, light sensitivity, weakness of limbs and partial facial paralysis set in. If you suffer from tick bite allergies, seek medical assistance for tick removal.

For non-allergic individuals, you may remove a tick with fine tipped forceps (not household tweezers as they are not fine tipped enough) and pull upwards with a bit of pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick.

How to prevent bites and stings

To help prevent bites and stings from insect pests, it’s a good idea to wear protective gloves, closed shoes, socks, long pants and a long sleeved shirt. This can be when gardening, or walking through the bush or long grass. The use of insect repellants recommended by your pharmacist  may also prove valuable during these warmer seasons.

Manage insect populations throughout the year with regular general pest treatments from a reputable pest control company. Why not book yours today?

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Kathryn Birett

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