The general guidance for dealing with bites and stings is: to monitor airway and breathing; be prepared to resuscitate if necessary; to support and reassure the injured person; to offer relief with a cold compress; and to avoid infection by cleaning and covering the wound. In addition, there are some specific treatments that may be useful for certain types of bites and stings.
Ticks are tiny bloodsucking creatures found in long grass that attach themselves to animals and humans firmly by embedding their mouthparts into the skin. Ticks cause discomfort and can transmit disease. Although simple to remove, great care should be taken as the mouthparts could remain in the skin if removed incorrectly. Use a flat-ended pair of tweezers or gloved fingers and grasp the tick at its head end, as close to the skin as possible. Using even pressure, pull the tick straight up, avoiding twisting and squeezing the tick’s body. Once it has been removed, clean and cover the bitten area.
Mosquitoes are found all over the UK and are small airborne insects. They feed on animals, including humans, by injecting a minute amount of anaesthetic and a chemical that stops blood from clotting and then sucking blood from their host until they are full. Unfortunately this can leave a small inflamed area that is uncomfortable but not life-threatening. This can be easily treated by a cold compress.
In many countries mosquitoes carry malaria, which can be fatal. Should you visit countries that have malarial areas, you must seek advice from your doctor on how to protect yourself and which antimalarial drugs are best suited to you.
There are very few species of jellyfish that are poisonous in the waters around the UK. However, there are plenty overseas, and some do find their way to our coastal waters. Generally those that are poisonous have long tentacles that sway freely beneath their bodies and contain stingers that inject chemicals into anyone that should come too close. Although not normally fatal, they can cause extreme pain that leads to panic, especially in children, which can lead to further danger in the water.
These stings can be treated by calming the casualty and then applying alcohol or vinegar to the affected area for a minimum of 3 minutes or until the pain subsides.
Should the casualty suffer a severe allergic reaction, emergency medical aid should be sought.
Weaver fish are found all around the UK but are particularly prevalent in some areas of the south coast. They are small fish that bury themselves at the very top of the sand, usually in shallows where they hunt. They have sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can inject poison into anyone who steps on them.
Although the pain is extreme, it can be quickly relieved by placing the affected area in a bowl of water as hot as the sufferer can stand for 20 minutes or until the pain subsides. Make sure you test the hot water with your elbow first because otherwise you may scald the skin.
If the casualty suffers a severe reaction, emergency medical aid should be sought.