Bites and Stings – The Risks and Remedies When Living in North Qld
As a parent, we want to keep our kids safe, and living in North Queensland comes with its own set of risks that are important to be aware of. There are a variety of creatures that can bite or sting us here, so what do you do if you suspect your little one has been bitten or stung? It can be difficult to know whether or not a bite or sting is dangerous, so let’s clarify common bites and stings that happen in and around North Queensland.
Common symptoms of insect bites are skin irritation, inflammation or swelling, or a bump or a blister around the bite mark. Insect bites usually clear up within a couple of days without any treatment.
Mosquitoes can cause itchy bites and severe allergic reactions are rare. Itching is quite common and children will often scratch, breaking the skin. If the skin is broken it can lead to an infection, so if itching persists for more than 48 hours, it is best to take your child to the doctor.
Bees and wasps can produce a painful sting, however the major cause for concern is the development of serious allergy, also known as anaphylaxis. If a child shows signs of anaphylaxis, ring 000 immediately and wait for the ambulance. Signs nd symptoms of Anaphylaxis are discussed below, as well as what you should do in such a medical emergency.
Wasps rarely leave their sting in the skin but if a bee’s stinger is left behind, gently remove it by scraping it carefully from the side with a fingernail or credit card, flicking the sting out to reduce the amount of venom injected. Do not use tweezers as you may release more venom from the sac. Follow general first aid for bites and stings. More information on general first aid is discussed below.
Hairy Caterpillars can cause painful, itchy and inflamed skin reactions as caterpillar hairs become embedded in the child’s skin. These hairs can also cause eye injury if they get into the eye, so see your doctor immediately if there are caterpillar hairs in the eye. Remove visible hairs with tweezers, then apply and remove adhesive tape to the area to remove the finer hairs. Do not scratch or rub the area as this may cause the hairs to penetrate deeper into the skin.
Other Bites and Stings
Snake bites in north Queensland can be potentially fatal and an ambulance should be called immediately by dialling 000 for all cases of suspected snakebite. While not all snakes are venomous, it is difficult to identify snakes, and therefore all bites should be treated as potentially dangerous. Immediately apply a pressure-immobilisation bandage, lay the child as still as possible and wait for the ambulance to arrive. Do not attempt to kill or capture the snake yourself.
Box jellyfish are found mostly in the warm waters along the North Queensland coast. Stings are potentially fatal. Douse the tentacles with vinegar, and then call 000 for an ambulance. If the child isn’t breathing, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Do not attempt to remove the tentacles and do not rub the sting.
Bluebottle jellyfish are found in all coastal waters and can be seen when walking along the beach in summer. The sting can cause immediate intense pain followed by redness at the site. Remove any remaining tentacles by washing the area with water. Soaking the affected area in hot but not scalding water (ideally 45 C) for 20 minutes may relieve the pain. This, however, is not suitable for infants, as hot water may burn their skin. Do not use vinegar. If pain persists, patients should see their GP.
Irukandji Syndrome can be a potentially lethal condition, however, most cases are not life threatening. The initial sting is usually not felt but can develop into a progressive syndrome (over minutes to hours) characterised by restlessness, sweating, nausea, vomiting and severe pain affecting the limbs, back, abdomen or chest. For suspected Irukandji Syndrome, douse the site with vinegar. Ring 000 for an ambulance, so your child can attend an Emergency Department for assessment.
Flying foxes and bats can cause infection that can be transmitted after scratches or bites. If your child is bitten or scratched by a bat, wash the area with soap and water for five minutes, apply an antiseptic and then see your GP.
General First Aid for Bites and Stings
- Wash with soap and water and apply an antiseptic if available.
- Ensure your child’s tetanus vaccination is up to date.
- An icepack can be applied to reduce local pain and swelling.
- Pain relief may be required e.g., paracetamol or an antihistamine (to reduce swelling, redness or itch).
- See your doctor if your child develops any other symptoms or signs of infection.
Signs and symptoms to look out for in children after a bite or sting are:
- difficult/noisy breathing.
- swelling of tongue.
- swelling/tightness in the throat.
- difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice.
- wheeze or persistent cough.
- persistent dizziness or collapse.
- pale and floppy.
- abdominal pain and vomiting (these are signs of anaphylaxis for insect allergy).
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and therefore follow these steps:
- Lay the child flat (do not allow them to stand or walk).
- Administer an autoinjector (EpiPen or AnaPen) if one is available.
- Dial 000 for the ambulance.
- Administer second autoinjector if there is no response after 5 minutes.
- The child will be transported to the Emergency Department for at least 4 hours of observation.
If this is your child’s first anaphylactic event, the ambulance will administer adrenaline on the way to the hospital. Commence CPR if the child is unresponsive and not breathing normally.