First Aid for Bites and Stings

Image of a person watering their flowers in the garden while bees, wasps and ants roam around the garden The title next to it says "Bee’s, Wasps, & Ant bites and stings" followed by Life Saving First Aid logo

Introduction

Australia is crawling with insects of one kind or another. In this article, we will look at first aid for bites and stings from various insects and spiders.

Recognising the Signs, Symptoms and knowing first aid management of insect bites and stings is important.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over 3,500 Australians were hospitalised due to contact with a venomous animal or plants in 2017–18. More than a 26% of these hospitalisations were caused by bee stings, almost 19% were caused by spider bites with redbacks the most common spider involved.

In Australia deaths from venomous plants, animals or insects is rare. The National Coronial Information System records 19 deaths in 2017–18 due to contact with venomous animals – 7 with venomous snakes, 12 with bees and wasps.

Bees, Wasp and Ant bites and stings

Lets’ have a look at bee, wasp and ant stings. Single stings from a bee, wasp or ant, can be painful but rarely cause serious problems except for persons who have a severe allergy to the venom.

However, multiple insect stings can cause severe pain and widespread skin reaction. Multiple stings around the face can cause severe local swelling and difficulty breathing even if the person is not allergic to that insect.

Bees

Here in Australia, there are over 1,500 native bee species in a range of shapes and sizes. Bees are critical to the sustainability of our food supply. An astonishing one-third of Australian food is dependent on honey bee pollination.

Australian native bees can be either solitary or social bees. On the other hand, honey bees will live together in a nest or hive. Honey bees are generally stronger pollinators, but the smaller native bees can access smaller flowers and also play an important role in pollination. 

It is important to remember that bee stings leave behind the venom sac and sting which continues to inject venom into the skin, whilst a wasp or ant may sting multiple times without leaving a venom sac attached.

To remove the bee sting scrape sting out of the skin. Do no try to pull it out as you may squeeze more venom into the casualty.

Wasps

Wasps in Australia include European Wasps, English wasps and paper wasps all of which can sting and inject venom. Unlike a bee, the wasp does not lose its sting and therefore can sting you many times.

Stings from wasps can be immediately extremely painful with some redness around the bite area.

There can also be airway obstruction from swelling of the face and tongue due to anaphylaxis, or from many stings in or around the mouth.

Bull Ants

Bull ants are large, alert ants that can grow up to 40 mm They have characteristic large eyes and long, slender mandibles and a potent venom-loaded sting.

There are about 90 species of bull ants in Australia. Jumper ants are some of the smaller species. They have a habit of aggressively jumping toward intruders.

Ants deliver painful stings by gripping the intruder with their mandibles (jaws), curling their abdomen to reveal the sting, and injecting the victim with venom. Often the ant can deliver multiple stings. 

Signs and Symptoms

Stings from bees, wasps and ants all show similar signs and symptoms

Minor reactions are usually immediate and intense local pain with some local redness and swelling.

On the other hand, more severe reactions can be airway obstruction from swelling of the face and tongue due to anaphylaxis, or from bee stings in or around the mouth. This may occur immediately or over several hours.

Management:

THE major immediate risk to the health of persons bitten or stung by insects is severe allergic reaction, Anaphylaxis.

Prevention, recognition and treatment of anaphylaxis should be the focus of First aid for bites and stings.

For all bites and stings, except in the case of tick bites, apply a cold compress to the sting area. You may be use an icepack to relieve the pain of the sting and help reduce swelling

CALL 000 if multiple stings to the face or tongue have occurred or there is evidence of a severe allergic reaction anaphylaxis.

For anaphylaxis use an Epipen or other adrenaline injector to administer adrenaline (epinephrine) via intramuscular injection preferably into lateral thigh which is the outside part of the upper leg.

Monitor the casualty for any signs of allergic or other reaction

Ticks

Most tick bites cause few or no symptoms. Sometimes ticks may cause local skin irritation or a mild allergic reaction by injecting a toxin.

In susceptible people, a tick bite may cause a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening.

It may also occur in people with no previous exposure or known susceptibility.

To prevent it from injecting more allergen-containing saliva, do not forcibly remove or touch the tick

This will prevent allergic reactions due to allergen-containing saliva injected by the tick.

The safest way to remove a tick is to Freeze the tick, using a product that rapidly freezes and kills the tick, and allows it to drop off.

Alternatively, leave it in place and seek medical assistance to remove the tick as soon as possible.

If you must remove the tick, use fine tweezers, and grasp the head of the tick as close to the persons skin as possible and lever the tick out by the head. Do not squeeze the tick.

Monitor the casualty for any signs of allergic or other reaction.

Conclusion

The main points for first aid for bites and stings are:

•            There are many insects in Australia that can bite and sting but generally they cause only minor problems

•            Be aware of possible severe allergic reactions and manage accordingly

•            Remove bee stings by scraping them out as soon as possible

•            Apply cold pack to insect bite site for pain management – except for ticks

•            Remove ticks, if possible, by freezing or tweezers applied to the tick’s head. Seek medical attention if you cannot remove the tick.

Well, that’s that. Until next time… Stay safe.

Bleeding, Blood loss and Shock

Bleeding, blood loss and shock followed by Life Saving First Aid logo

What is bleeding?

Bleeding is when blood discharges from the circulatory system. Blood loss can occur due to small cuts, abrasions, or deep cuts and amputations.

Injuries to the body can also result in internal bleeding, which can range from minor to massive bleeds. Bleeding and blood loss can result in haemorrhagic shock.

There are around 5 litres of blood in the average person. With too much blood loss, the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen to support life. People who experience major injury and trauma may rapidly lose blood.

A loss of only 1.5ltr can result in

  • a rapid heart rate higher than 120 beats per minute.
  • A drop in blood pressure.
  • Increased breathing rate.

You will die if you lose more than 2ltr or about 40 per cent of your blood. Check out this chart- “How much blood can you lose?

There are three main types of Bleeding. Minor, Severe and Internal. It is quite possible you could experience all three types on one casualty.  

Minor Bleeding

For example:

  • from a small surface cut or nosebleed.
  • Capillary bleeding occurs when the skin’s surface layer breaks due to abrasion or a graze. As a result, it will slowly ooze blood and may contain particles.
  • Venous bleeding (a minor wound) is a laceration, cut or slice into the skin bleeding freely. The application of pressure or a bandage will control the bleeding.
  • Minor pain, small cuts, weeping fluid

Severe Bleeding

Severe bleeding:

  • a severe wound due to cut or laceration to an artery. Blood will spurt vigorously with every heartbeat. Requires immediate action as the casualty can lose a large amount of blood quickly.
  • As a result of an embedded object such as a knife, piece of wood or steel.
  • An amputation, that is, a completely severed body part.
  • Severe pain, cold clammy skin, rapid shallow breathing, or other signs of shock.

Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding is bleeding inside the body. You should always suspect internal bleeding when symptoms of shock are present.

Signs and Symptoms include:

  • Coughing up blood, vomiting blood, bleeding from ears, anus, or blood in the urine.
  • Bruising, pain, tenderness and swelling at the site
  • Swollen, tight abdomen
  • unconsciousness

Management

As with all our First Aid incidents we need to check for danger first to ensure it is safe for us to provide First Aid.

Carry out DRSABCD

Determine the type of bleeding so you can give the appropriate first aid.

Wash your hands and wear personal protective equipment if available.

Nosebleed

Sit casualty upright and tilt their head forward, ask them to squeeze and apply dissect pressure over the soft part of the of the nostrils below the bridge of the nose.

Place a cold pack on the back of their neck.

Hold for at least 10 minutes and if bleeding does not stop within 20 minutes seek medical help.

Minor BleedingManagement

Using pressure on or around the wound is usually the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to stop external bleeding.

The aim is to stop further bleeding while waiting for help to arrive. There is no evidence that elevating a bleeding part will help control bleeding and there is the potential to cause more pain or injury.

If the wound is a graze there may be particles present in the wound. You should remove loose particles with tweezers or by flushing the wound with clean water or sterile saline solution. Do not rub or scrub the wound. If particles are still in the wound apply a bandage which is not too tight and call for medical help.

For a minor or small cut apply firm pressure to the wound using your hand, the casualties’ hand, or a bandage to stop the bleeding. The preferred dressing would be sterile, non-stick, and non-allergenic, . However, use what you have.

Monitor the casualty and seek medical help if needed.

Severe bleedingManagement

If the bleeding is severe or life-threatening, controlling it should take priority over airway and breathing interventions.

You should lie the casualty down, apply pressure on the wound, and send for an ambulance.

Wash your hands and wear PPE if available.

  • Do not remove any embedded object as it may be stopping some bleeding but Bandage around embedded objects to apply indirect pressure to the wound.
  • If there is blood spurting from wound, apply firm direct pressure to the wound with hand or dressing.
  • Apply dressing firmly to the wound, preferably sterile and non-stick
  • In cases where the wound still bleeds through the pad and bandage, remove the bandage, keep the first pad, apply a second pad and rebandage.

If the wound still bleeds through the bandage, remove all bandages and pads, reassess the wound if a bleeding point has been missed, then apply a fresh set of pads and bandages.

If you find the following or similar:

  • An amputated or partially amputated limb above wrist or ankle
  • A victim of a shark attack, propeller cuts or similar major trauma to any part of the body
  • Or bleeding not controlled by local pressure

Call 000 immediately and you should consider the use of a tourniquet. 

Tourniquets

If you cannot control the bleeding by direct pressure or it is life-threatening bleeding from a limb, use an arterial tourniquet.

Do not be apply a tourniquet over a joint or wound.

The following guidelines apply if you need to use a tourniquet:

  • When applying all arterial tourniquets, follow the manufacturer’s instructions (or 5 cm above the wound if no instructions) and tighten until the bleeding stops.
  • If the bleeding does not stop, check the position and application of the tourniquet. If possible, you should not apply the tourniquet over clothing or wetsuits. Apply the tourniquet tightly, even if it causes local discomfort
  • If bleeding continues, a second tourniquet (if available) should be applied to the limb, preferably above the first.
  • Note the time of the tourniquet application, and communicate to emergency/paramedic personnel. the victim will require urgent transfer to the hospital. Until the victim receives specialist care, the tourniquet should not be removed

You can improvise a tourniquet if there is no tourniquet available. Although an improvised tourniquet is unlikely to stop the bleeding and poses the risk of increased bleeding and tissue damage, an improvised tourniquet is better than none at all in life-threatening bleeding.

For example, using materials found in a first aid kit, clothing, or other similarly available items you can improvise a tourniquet. Tighten your Improvised tourniquet by twisting a rod or stick under the improvised tourniquet, similar to the windlass in commercial tourniquets.

You must ensure there is a record of the time your tourniquet was applied. Also, ensure you do not cover the tourniquet with clothing.

Haemostatic Dressing

Another method to help stop severe bleeding is the use of a Haemostatic Dressing.

Haemostatic dressings are filled with agents that help stop bleeding, such as kaolin and chitosan. While commonly used in surgical and military settings, their use in the civilian, non-surgical setting (such as first aid) is becoming more common.

Lie the person down and check for signs of shock and treat.

Internal Bleeding

This occurs when blood escapes from the arteries, veins, or capillaries into tissues or cavities in the body.

Remember, an injured person may be bleeding internally even if you can’t see any blood. An internal injury may cause bleeding that remains contained within the body; for example, within the skull or abdominal cavity.

It is important to ask the right questions to collect the relevant information. Listen carefully to what the person tells you about their injury. Watch for the signs and symptoms of shock. In the case of a head injury, the signs and symptoms of concussion.

The signs and symptoms of internal bleeding depend on where the bleeding is inside the body, but may include:

  • pain at the injured site
  • swollen, tight abdomen
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pale, clammy, sweaty skin
  • breathlessness
  • extreme thirst
  • unconsciousness.

For signs and symptoms specific to concussion (caused by trauma to the head) check out our blog – “Head Injuries”

Management of internal bleeding

First aid cannot realistically manage or treat any kind of internal bleeding. Therefore, seeking prompt medical help is vital.

Above all, severe internal bleeding is life-threatening and requires urgent treatment in hospital so CALL 000

Lie the person down, make them as comfortable as possible and check for signs of shock.

If there is bruising to a limb and no external bleeding, use pressure and a cold pack if available. Above all, make the casualty as comfortable as possible keeping them warm and monitoring their condition till the arrival of the ambulance.

Some things you can do are:

  • Check for danger before approaching the person.
  • If possible, send someone else to call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
  • Check that the person is conscious.
  • Lie the person down.
  • Cover them with a blanket or something to keep them warm.
  • If possible, raise the person’s legs above the level of their heart.
  • Don’t give the person anything to eat or drink.
  • Offer reassurance. Manage any other injuries, if possible.
  • If the person becomes unconscious, place them on their side. Check for breathing frequently. Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary.

Conclusion

  • There are three types of bleeding, Minor, Severe and Internal
  • Use PPE if available and apply DRSABCD
  • Call an Ambulance ASAP if needed
  • Apply direct pressure to stop bleeding and use sterile non-stick dressings if available
  • Do not remove embedded objects
  • Be aware of and look for signs of shock
  • Only use a tourniquet as a last resort
  •  For a nosebleed, tilt the head forward, and apply pressure to the bridge of the nose for 10 minutes. If not stopped within 20 min. Call an ambulance.

And always monitor and reassure the casualty.

Well, that’s that. Until next time… Stay safe.

Adrian