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First Aid for Bites and Stings

Most bites and stings are minor and, although irritating, respond well to first aid. Bites from humans and animals may be more serious. Snake bites pose a problem because of the venom that the snake can inject.

Insect Stings

Many insect stings are painful, but they rarely pose a threat to life. Some people, however, are allergic to particular insect stings like wasp and bee stings and may suffer a more severe reaction. In some extreme cases, the allergic reaction can be fatal.


Remove any sting left in the skin. Use a pair of tweezers, but grip the sting below the poison sac so as not to inject further poison into the casualty.

Apply a cold compress to the area for at least 15 minutes. Don't apply ice directly; wrap ice in a dish cloth or something similar.

If the reaction is severe or if irritation persists for more than 48 hours, contact a doctor.

Stings in the mouth can be fatal because swelling can cause partial or complete obstruction of the airway. Stings in and around the mouth and throat should always be treated as emergencies. Give the casualty ice to suck on and dial emergency services. Keep the casualty calm and discourage crying or speaking as this could increase swelling.

Animal and Human Bites

Bites from animals and humans can leave very nasty wounds. Teeth carry infection into the tissue. Any wound that punctures the skin must be seen by a doctor.

Treatment for serious wounds:

Control bleeding by applying direct pressure and, if possible, elevate the injured part. Apply a sterile dressing. Send the casualty to hospital.

Treatment of minor wounds:

Rinse the wound under running water for at least 5 minutes. Wash the wound with soap and warm water. Dry the wound and surrounding area with a clean towel. Apply a suitable dressing. Advice the casualty to seek medical advice.

Snake Bites

Signs and symptoms:

  • You may notice puncture marks.
  • There will be pain and discomfort around the site of the bite.
  • There will be swelling and redness around the bite.
  • The casualty may be drowsy and have difficulty breathing.
  • The casualty may vomit.
  • The casualty may have problems with his vision.
  • There may be excessive sweating.


  • Keep the casualty calm and lay him down.
  • Wash the wound with soap and water, if possible.
  • Keep the wound below the level of the heart so that the effects of the venom can be localized.
  • Dial emergency services.
  • Immobilize the affected part if the casualty becomes restless.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Do not attempt to suck out the poison or try to release the venom by cutting the wound open.
  • Try to identify the snake, note the coloring and markings on the snake.

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