By Tina Toler-Keel
Special to The News Reporter
As summer approaches, the risk of being bitten or stung increases and people often do not know what to do when it happens, especially with venomous bites.
Physician assistant Larry Burroughs, at Columbus Regional Health Care System’s Urgent Care Center, said if a person is stung by a bee, wasp, or other flying insect, the first response should be to remove the stinger. If the stinger cannot be seen or removed, a medical care professional should be seen.
After the stinger is removed, treatment is the same as with any other non-poisonous bite or sting. Burroughs suggests ice on the wound, a paste of baking soda and water for intense itching and burning, and a dose of over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl, for itching, which should be taken according to the directions on the package. Anyone with a heart condition must speak with his or her physician before using Benadryl.
A person with a history of allergies should be cautious. An allergy to a sting can cause severe reactions, such as swelling, a rash and the inability to breathe. Burroughs said if a person is stung, he or she should remain close to someone while who can monitor symptoms. If problems, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain arrive, he or she should immediately seek help.
Jellyfish: vinegar, urine not proven to help
Treat jellyfish stings as any other sting. Home remedies such as vinegar and urine won’t help, but meat tenderizer and water made into a paste will lessen the pain, according to Burroughs.
Use salt or hot water to remove the tentacles and provide some relief. Touching the tentacles to remove them from the victim, even if the tentacles are detached, will cause additional stings to the helper.
Spiders can cause ugly bites
There are only two types of poisonous spiders in our area– the black widow and the brown recluse.
Brown recluses stay in dark, hidden places. They are rarely seen and dwell mostly in out buildings, workshops, and under houses. Because of their small size and preference of dark places, one rarely sees the brown recluse and may not know they are bitten until symptoms occur.
The venom attacks and destroys the body’s enzymes. When the bite occurs, a blister is formed. From there, the blister turns into a blood blister and the venom begins eating the tissue all around the site. Not only does the bite spread out and around, it spreads deep into the tissues.
Black widow bites are more painful than ones from a brown recluse. Burroughs said the site of the bite is not usually sore and is barely noticeable at first, but the area may become red and swollen. The venom causes severe muscle pain and abdominal cramping, and is often misdiagnosed as appendicitis. Victims tend to get very sick, and the elderly “can get into more trouble than we would because the venom is so toxic,” he said.
If a black widow or brown recluse was seen before or during bite, or if a person has severe symptoms, it is advised to seek medical care immediately.
Snakebites: don’t freak out
Burroughs said most snakebites are mild and “feel like you have been bitten by a rat or hamster.” In a non-poisonous bite, the best thing to do is use an ice compress on the sore and take Ibuprofen for pain.
The three predominate poisonous snakes in our area are the rattlesnake, copperhead, and water Moccasin.
If a person does not see the snake, watch for symptoms. A venomous bite will cause immediate swelling, pain, and sickness, while a non-venomous bite causes mild pain. If bitten by a poisonous snake, Burroughs said to seek immediate medical care, but be safe. He said, “Do not drive 100 miles an hour. You want to be safe.”
Medical treatment may include the administration of Cro-Fab. Burroughs said it must be used with caution and, “Cro-Fab is prescription only and has to be carefully monitored.”
If the medication is given, the patient will be admitted to the hospital for observation as well as further dosing if necessary.
People once believed they could make a cut near the site of a bite, suck the poison out, or place a constrictive band between the bite and the heart, but that only makes the problem worse and should never be attempted.
Burroughs said home remedies to repel snakes, such as moth balls, are non-effective but “prevention is the key.”