stings and bites

Summer is well and truly upon us! Whilst that prompts memories of barbeques, warmth and friends, it also brings with it the possibility of a whole host of bites and stings. We tend to forget about these before too long, but it is worth being prepared now. Here are a few of the more likely bites and stings you might come across this summer, and best practice for managing the pain.

Bee Stings

Bee stings are one of those things that get played up for laughs in cartoons (think of Winnie the Pooh escaping swarms with a pot of honey in paw, or Homer Simpson covered in hundreds of fired up bees). Yet as soon as you actually get stung, you’ll realise that is no laughing matter. It genuinely hurts! And if you have the misfortune of being allergic, don’t get us started…

Sometimes you might step on a bee and not realise what has happened as it can sometimes feel like a puncture wound or some kind of bindi. If you’re experiencing sharp burning pain, with a red welt at the site which is swelling up, it is pretty safe to say you’ve been stung by a bee. For most people, it will go away over the next few hours.In the meantime, here is what you can do to manage the pain:

  1. Try to remove the stinger by scraping it off with your fingernail. Don’t squeeze to remove it like you would a splinter as this can pump more poison into your system.
  2. Wash the area around the wound with soap and water.
  3. Apply some form of cold compress. These are readily available from this online chemist Australia, but if you are in a squeeze, you can wrap a bag of frozen peas in a damp washcloth and it will do a reasonable job.
  4. Take some ibuprofen. This will reduce the swelling.
  5. Elevate the leg or arm to avoid blood gathering and pooling at the site of the wound. 
  6. There are a range of creams that you can apply on the site (again, available at this online chemist Australia) such as hydrocortisone. This will minimise the itchiness that can prolong the pain if you keep getting stuck in with the scratching.

This will suffice for most people. Yet for others, it might linger for anywhere between 5-10 days. If this is the case, you should see a doctor because the reaction can get worse each time, and it is possible that you might have an anaphylactic reaction next time around (the chances are somewhere between 25% and 65%). Being prepared and having an epipen handy could make all the difference.

If you come across someone with the following symptoms, you need to call an ambulance ASAP:

  • Struggling to breathe
  • Swelling around the nose and throat
  • Pulse is weak or rapid
  • Nauseous or having just vomited
  • Flushed or pale skin

Bluebottle Sting

This is one of the best ways to ruin a day at the beach. Much like bees, a bluebottle sting is seriously underrated! Officially known as Portuguese Man-of-war Jellyfish, bluebottle stings can last about an hour and you will feel every single second of it. The bottle itself doesn’t have any stinging cells, rather these are all found in a long line which trails behind. This makes it almost impossible to spot when swimming. Let’s make sure your beach days aren’t ruined. Here is how to manage the pain.

  1. Remove the stinger from the skin. This is easier said than done if it has wrapped around you.You’ll need to gently pluck at it with gloves, because wiping it off will just mean you are wiping the stinger all over your body. Not a strong move.
  2. DO NOT use vinegar. There are a number of old remedies which simply don’t stand up to the science. Instead, immerse the site of the sting in hot water. Ideally, the hotter the better, but not so hot that you can’t handle it. Most surf clubs will have access to this if you are at a patrolled beach. If not, you will need to find the nearest hot shower. If nothing else is on hand, an ice pack is still better than nothing.
  3. If you are still struggling with the pain an hour later, you will need to see a doctor. They can advise you which topical cream to help reduce the pain

All of this is contingent on where you are. If you are in the far north of Australia, there is a chance that you have been stung by a Box jellyfish or an Irukanji. If you are anywhere north of Gladstone on the east or Exmouth on the west, assume the worst, and hope for the best. Vinegar and 000.

Spider Bite

This is a tricky one. They come in shapes and sizes.Ideally, you should try to identify the spider so that doctors know what they are dealing with. There are a few basic principles which you can follow when delivering first aid however. 

  1. Clean the wound with soap and warm water. 
  2. Source a cold compress or the makeshift bag of peas. This should be applied for 15 minutes of every hour.
  3. If the bite is on an extremity, elevate the limb to minimise blood flow.
  4. Take a pain relief medication, either ibuprofen or paracetamol.
  5. Consider taking an antihistamine to counter itchiness. You can prolong the pain and irritation if you are constantly scratching the bite. An antihistamine like Zyrtec or Benadryl are great options. As always, we have deep stocks of these in our online chemist australia.
  6. Keep a close eye on the site of the wound to ensure it isn’t getting worse. You might need to go through a course of antibiotics if it isn’t getting any better.

Summer is a truly special time of year, and we want to keep it that way. It is always worth restocking your first aid once a year to make sure that summer doesn’t have a sting in its tail.


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