Bites and stings - first aid

Australia has some venomous creatures lurking around. Roll your mouse over each critter to see what to do in case you're bitten or stung.

 

Redback spider bite

  • Apply an ice pack to relieve the pain.
  • Don’t use pressure immobilisation bandages as the venom travels very slowly and the pressure worsens the pain.
  • Seek medical attention.

Signs and symptoms

Bites from redback spiders are immediately painful. The pain may spread. Small hairs near the bite may stand on end.

If you’re bitten by a spider – try to capture the spider for identification purposes, but only if this can be done safely.

Funnel-web spider bite

  • Check the person’s breathing and circulation. If unconscious follow DRABC plan – Danger, Respond, Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
  • Calm the person and keep them STILL.
  • Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage firmly along entire limb, but not too tightly – same as for a sprained ankle.
  • If bitten on hand, bandage as much of arm as possible, starting just above fingers; if bitten on foot or leg, bandage entire leg from just above toes.
  • Apply a splint to the limb, to keep it STILL.
  • Dial 000 for an ambulance.
  • Don’t remove bandages as venom will quickly enter bloodstream.

Signs and symptoms

Person may be salivating and sweating profusely. They may have numbness or tingling around the mouth. Confusion may develop and there can be difficulty breathing. Muscular spasms can occur.

Snake bite

  • Don’t try to suck venom out from a bite wound.
  • Don’t wash off the venom from the bite.
  • Apply pressure immobilisation bandage to entire limb as far up as possible.
  • Start just above fingers or just above toes.
  • Keep the bitten limb and the patient STILL.
  • Apply a splint to the leg or to the arm from the elbow to the fingers.
  • Don’t move the patient.
  • Dial 000 for an ambulance.
  • Don’t remove bandages as venom will quickly enter bloodstream.

Signs and symptoms

Puncture marks may be visible. Nausea. Vomiting. Abdominal pain. Drowsiness. Respiratory weakness. Headache. Breathing difficulty.

Bluebottle sting

  • Vinegar is NOT recommended.
  • Remove any tentacles with tweezers or fingers. Do NOT rub the area.
  • Do NOT wash off with fresh water — use sea water.
  • Immerse the affected area in hot water (no hotter than the rescuer can comfortably tolerate) for 20 minutes to relieve pain.
  • If pain is not relieved by heat, or hot water is not available, stings may respond to ice packs or anaesthetic creams or lotions.

Box jellyfish or sea wasp (Chironex fleckeri) sting

  • Flood the adhering tentacles with vinegar to inactivate the stinging cells – for at least 30 seconds.
  • Antivenom is required for all but minor stings.
  • Dial 000 for an ambulance.
  • Make sure patient does NOT move.
  • Artificial respiration and cardiac massage may be required.

Signs and symptoms

Excruciating pain. Person may go into shock and collapse – may drown as a result.

Irukandji sting

  • Call for medical assistance, either via a lifeguard or dial 000 for an ambulance.
  • Liberally douse the stung area with vinegar.
  • The person must be taken to hospital for pain relief and treatment of systemic symptoms.

Signs and symptoms

The sting may not be painful. After an average of 30 minutes the person may develop irukandji syndrome – including severe low back pain, vomiting, muscle cramps, restlessness and anxiety. Dangerously high blood pressure may develop.

Blue-ringed octopus bite

  • Dial 000 for an ambulance.
  • Pressure immobilisation bandages should be applied.
  • Person will need transfer to hospital – prolonged artificial respiration is often required.

Signs and symptoms

The bite is usually not felt. Person will become numb around the mouth, tongue, face and neck. Chest may become tight. Difficulty breathing which leads to respiratory failure and ultimately death if person is not resuscitated. Person is often aware, but unable to move or respond. Fixed dilated pupils.

Cone shell (snail) sting

  • Pressure immobilisation bandage over the site.
  • Seek medical assistance immediately.
  • Assisted or artificial respiration may be required.
  • Tetanus injection may be needed — wound could be infected.

Signs and symptoms

Pain, swelling and numbness at sting site. Prolonged weakness of muscles. Vision, speech and hearing are disturbed. Death may occur.

Australian paralysis tick envenomation

  • Find and remove tick using tweezers.
  • Make sure the tick’s head is not left in.
  • Do not squeeze or cut the tick as it will inject more toxin.
  • Pressure immobilisation bandage can be used if serious symptoms develop.
  • Seek medical attention if parts of tick are left in skin as they may cause infection.

Signs and symptoms

Irritation at site of tick and sometimes allergic reaction. Progressive reaction from tiredness to muscle weakness and unsteadiness on feet, double vision and difficulty breathing or swallowing to (rarely) paralysis.

Last Reviewed: 2 June 2010
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References

1. Australian Resuscitation Council. ARC guideline 9.4.1 – Envenomation – Australian snake bite (July 2011). http://www.resus.org.au/ (accessed Aug 2012).
2. Australian Resuscitation Council. ARC guideline 9.4.2 – Envenomation – Spider bite (February 2007). http://www.resus.org.au/ (accessed Aug 2012).
3. Australian Resuscitation Council. ARC guideline 9.4.5 – Envenomation – Jellyfish stings (July 2010). http://www.resus.org.au/ (accessed Aug 2012).
4. Australian Resuscitation Council. ARC guideline 9.4.6 – Envenomation – Blue-ringed octopus and cone shell (March 2001). http://www.resus.org.au/ (accessed Aug 2012).
5. Australian Resuscitation Council. ARC guideline 9.4.8 – Envenomation – Pressure immobilisation technique (August 2011). http://www.resus.org.au/ (accessed Aug 2012).
6. St John Ambulance. Bites and stings (2011). http://www.stjohn.org.au/images/stjohn/information/fact_sheets/FS_bitestings.pdf (accessed Aug 2012).
7. St John Ambulance. Snake bite (2011). http://www.stjohn.org.au/images/stjohn/information/fact_sheets/FS_snakebite.pdf (accessed Aug 2012).
8. St John Ambulance. Spider bites (2011). http://www.stjohn.org.au/images/stjohn/information/fact_sheets/FS_spider.pdf (accessed Aug 2012).
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tick removal (updated 16 May 2011). http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html (accessed Aug 2012).
10. NSW Health. Ticks (updated 9 December 2011). http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/factsheets/general/ticks_factsheet.html (accessed Aug 2012).
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