Bites and stings - what to do

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    Bee stings – if someone is stung by a bee and the sting is still in the skin, quickly flick it out using your thumb nail or a credit card. It is important not to squeeze the sting as this can increase the amount of allergen entering the body and can increase any possible allergic reaction. Wasps and other stinging insects do not leave the sting behind in the wound.


    If the child has a local reaction, a wrapped ice pack applied to the area can quickly help to reduce the swelling. Piriton (chlorphenramine antihistamine) can also reduce the reaction.

    If the child shows any signs of a systemic reaction or of anaphylactic shock, call an ambulance immediately and use their Epipen if they have one.

    Reassuring the child and positioning them appropriately can make a major difference to their treatment. The child should also be kept warm and dry.

    If a child is very short of breath, they should be encouraged to sit, in an upright position to help their breathing, putting something under their knees to help increase their circulation can be very helpful – into the lazy W position.

    If a child is not having difficulty breathing, but is pale, cold, clammy, feeling sick and thirsty – they should lie down with their legs raised to help increase the circulation to their vital organs. Encourage them to turn their head to one side if they are likely to vomit. They should be covered to keep them warm and kept in this position until the paramedics arrive.

    Treat for shock by raising their legs: if they are showing symptoms of shock and are not having breathing problems.

    Animal bites

    Because of their height, children are often bitten on the face. Bites from animals can be jagged and frequently get infected. Even if an animal bite has just punctured the skin, it is important to wash the wound really well and look out for any signs of infection. It is sensible to get any bite that has punctured the skin looked at by a medical professional. If the wound looks red and becomes inflamed, hot, or angry looking, it is getting infected and they will need antibiotics.

    The initial treatment for a bite is the same as for any other wound, except it is important to quickly wash it thoroughly;

    • reassure the child
    • wash the wound thoroughly with clean water
    • stop any bleeding,
    • elevate the wound and apply pressure to stop bleeding
    • be ready to treat for shock.

    Note : Outside the UK, if someone is bitten or licked in a wound, it is really important to get medical attention very fast and have anti-rabies medication. It is also important to ensure that they are covered for tetanus.

    Marine Stings

    Playing on the beach is fabulous fun, but basic safety is important. Children should wear beach shoes when paddling and swimming as Weever fish and sea urchin spines can easily get embedded if they are accidently trodden on.

    Jelly fish stings:

    • Reassure them and sit them down
    • If there are any tentacles remaining, remove with tweezers – get a medical professional to do this if you are unsure
    • If they show any signs of breathing problems, acute allergic reaction or anaphylaxis – phone an ambulance immediately
    • Soak the affected area in vinegar for 15-30 minutes
    NOTE – with stings from a Portuguese Man of War (these are not jellyfish but are often mistaken for them) – do not immerse in vinegar as it will make the pain worse

    Jelly fish stings

    Sea urchins and weever fish:

    Sea urchins and weever fish both have vicious spines that can easily get embedded and can break off leaving the tip deep in the skin.

    • Soak the area in as hot water as possible ensuring that you are not scalding the casualty.
    • Remove large spines with tweezers, being very careful not to snap them when removing them
    • Look out for any signs of local or systemic reaction – if there are signs of anaphylaxis treat appropriately as above.
    Do not cover the wound and keep checking on it – if there is severe redness or swelling it may be starting to get infected and they might need antibiotics

    First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical First Aid course.
    For more information please visit: or contact 0208 675 4036

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