Insect & Snake Bites

Why are they dangerous?

Insect bites and stings carry the risk of allergic reactions, infections and skin injury. The bites introduce a venom to the body that will often cause the skin around the bite to swell and itch. When bites are received wash the area with water and soap, then apply antibacterial cream and a bandage. Below are directions for caring for more specific types of bites.

For information of Human and Animal bites go to bites.

Insect bites:

1. If the reaction is mild, apply a paste made from baking soda and water, wet cloth or ice (in a bag or cloth to avoid cold injuries)

2. If allergic reaction seems to be taking place seek medical help as soon as possible, severe reactions should get help immediately.

3. Seek medical help if bite becomes infected, or looks like it might.

Spider bites

1. Keep the bitten area still and hanging down

2. Apply ice (in a bag or cloth. Do not apply directly to skin)

3. Seek medical attention to ensure spider is not poisonous.

4. If shock occurs take the necessary medical steps.

Bites from Black Widow or Brown Recluse spiders may cause nausea, fever, pain and local skin reactions, like blisters. Spider bites may take hours or days to show any of these reactions.

Tick Bite

A doctor should always look at tick bites, as many ticks carry Lyme Disease, a disease which causes the brain to swell. These bites usually leave a circular skin bump behind.

Because there are several different kinds of ticks, and different diseases they can transmit, we have developed a page dedicated to this topic. Click Here for the page.

Snake Bites

When you receive a snake bite, your body is introduced to, at times, a powerful venom. It is very important to get immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms occur.

1. Hives

2. Swelling lips, tongue, throat and or eyes

3. Slurred speech

4. Coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing

5. Numbness and cramping

6. Nausea and vomiting

7. Anxiety, confusion, or unconsciousness

If you can, try to identify the snake, or take note of it’s appearance. This will help doctors determine if the snake is poisonous. If you can’t find it, don’t bother looking for it. Don’t give the person anything to eat or drink, especially alcoholic beverages. If you think the snake was poisonous then you may apply a *light* tourniquet 2-4 inches above and below the bite area.

Most snakes are not poisonous, and poisonous snakes are not found in Maine or Alaska, but you should still have these bites inspected so you can prevent the spread of bacteria and infection. Getting medical attention quickly is important because the anti-venom serums are ineffective if they are not administered within 12 hours.

Bee Stings:

If someone is stung by a bee, the first step is to remove the stinger if it is still present in the skin (this only occurs with the honeybee, who dies shortly after stinging.). This should be done by using tweezers, or, if no tweezers are available, scrape it out with a fingernail, or card. It is important never to squeeze a stinger when removing it, as more venom will be injected into the bite. Then wash the bite area with an antibacterial soap then you may apply an antibacterial cream if you want. After the area has been washed, apply ice wrapped in a cloth or in a bag to the skin (do not apply ice directly as it may freeze the skin and cause more damage), the ice will help minimize the pain and swelling.

If you are not allergic to bee stings, you may experience anything from a mild irritation and itching to the swelling of the entire part of the body that was stung.

If you’re allergic to bee stings, you could be subject to a very serious (although rare) allergic reaction known as Anaphylactic shock. This reaction can be life threatening and should be taken very seriously. All cases of anaphylactic shock and suspected shock should report to the emergency room as soon as possible. Most allergic reactions to bee stings are not this serious, and vary from person to person, although many people allergic to stings tend to have worse allergic reactions each time they are stung.

How do you treat serious reactions (anaphylactic and non anaphylactic)?

If you know you’re allergic to bee stings, it’s wise to carry the self-injectable antidote epinephrine, better known as adrenalin. These prescription kits are sold under the names Ana-Kit, EpiPen, and EpiPen Jr. (for children), among others. These syringes are injected into the front of the thigh, or a muscle and work to constrict the blood vessels before more damage can be done. Most of the kits come with only one syringe and on occasion more than one dose is needed. Because bee stings can happen at almost any time during the spring, summer, and early fall it is important to keep several kits on hand, especially if medical help is out of reach, for example camping trips, hikes, and on vacations where territory and bugs are unfamiliar. Keep kits at home and in the car, and if your child is allergic, leave a kit with the school nurse. Although this drug may stop a reaction and make you seem alright it is very important to go to your doctor anyway as soon as possible to be sure. In some cases the epinephrine is not enough and intravenous fluids or other treatments are needed. ALL cases of anaphylactic shock, or suspected cases should report to the emergency room immediately! The longer you wait the more damaging the effects.

If you or someone you know or live with is at risk of going into anaphylactic shock it is important to know how to use the syringes. Ask your doctor for information about classes you can attend to learn how, when, and where to administer these shots and save a life. It is also advised that a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace be worn.

Signs of anaphylactic shock:

Reactions of this kind usually occur seconds or minutes after the sting is received, although a few cases have not reacted for up to 12 hours. When one goes into anaphylactic shock, the blood vessels dilate and begin to leak into the surrounding tissues, which may affect some organs. Below are signs and symptoms to look for.

The skin is the first place to look. Hives, itching, swelling, redness and a stinging or burning sensation may appear. On the flip side, skin may also appear extremely pale.

Because the blood vessels are leaking a person may feel lightheaded or faint. Some people will lose consciousness because of a rapid drop in blood pressure.

Sometimes the throat, nose, and mouth become swollen and breathing passages become obstructed. The first signs of this are usually hoarseness or a lump in the throat. In some cases the swelling is so bad the air supply is cut off and the person experiences severe respiratory distress.

Another respiratory problem could be the constricting of the airways, giving someone the chess tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath commonly associated with asthma.

People may experience cramping (in women pelvic cramps may develop), diarrhea and nausea and vomiting.

Especially if the allergen was swallowed, the gastrointestinal tract often reacts.

Sweating

Rapid pulse

Causes of anaphylactic shock:

It is important to note that this allergic reaction (which, again, is very rare), is not caused only by bee stings. This reaction can be sparked by an injection, inhaling, swallowing, and being exposed to an allergen that the person is known to be allergic to. Injected allergens could be bee stings, as mentioned, certain vaccines prepared on an egg medium, penicillin, dyes used in diagnostic x-rays, and allergen extracts used in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic conditions. They can also be sparked by food allergies, even if only a small bite is taken. Skin contact with foods rarely causes an anaphylactic reaction. Foods that are commonly associated with this reaction are peanuts and nuts, seafood, and in children particularly, eggs and cows milk. Inhaled anaphylactic reactions are rare, but have occurred from the inhalation of particles from rubber and latex gloves.

Prevention of anaphylactic shock:

The most important part of prevention is avoiding the allergen as best as you can. For food allergies and insect bites this may be particularly difficult as food is presented in many different ways, and insects are all around you. For some people immunotherapy is key. This therapy introduces small amounts of the allergen to the person and increases the dose over time. This is a lengthy treatment and takes at least five years, however it can be an invaluable form of protection as it is almost 100% effective.

If your allergy involves bee stings it is important to note a few things about the bees. Honeybees can only sting you once, their stingers get stuck in the skin and they must tear away that part of their abdomen to escape. The bee dies shortly after delivering the sting. Luckily honeybees are not aggressive, like some of their relatives, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets tend to be, these bees will only sting if they are disturbed or injured. The most common sting from these bees is when they are stepped on. The best way to avoid that is to keep shoes on while walking or playing in areas where honeybees forage, such as clover patches and flowerbeds.

Another few things to note about bees (and other stinging insects), is that they are attracted to bright colors and strong scents. Insects seeking nectar are drawn towards bright colors, and perfumes. If you are allergic to these stings it is recommended that you avoid hairspray, perfumes, and colognes and, in the case of bees, bug spray. Bug spray will not deter bees, and since the scent is strong they may even be attracted. You should also avoid areas where food is open to the environment such as garbage cans, dumps, picnic areas etc. Another interesting fact about bees and color, is that black is an irritant to bees, while blue is a comforting color, it is important to remember this when selecting bathing attire

*** Before administering any first aid to anyone outside your family, be aware of your rights and responsibilities: The Good Samaritan Law. ***