Now that spring and summer are upon us, the incidence of insect bites and stings, as well as animal bites is on the rise. Most of these bites can be managed at home with some basic first aid. Some, though, may have a life-threatening allergic reaction to an insect bite. This is called anaphylaxis and can include symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or swelling of the lips, eyelids, face, and throat, or even the palms or soles of the feet. This is a true emergency. Call 911 immediately.
For insect bites or stings, first move to a safe place, away from the insects. Next, check for the above anaphylactic symptoms. Wash the area carefully with soap and water. If there is a stinger still in place, try to remove it by scraping across the area with the side of a spoon, a credit card, or a piece of cardboard. Avoid using tweezers. Ice will help to dull either the pain or the itch and can be applied, wrapped in a towel, for about 10 minutes at a time. An anti itch cream such as hydrocortisone can be used to ease the discomfort. Most of these will heal in a few days.
Some spider bites, especially the Brown Recluse or Black Widow, can cause more serious reactions. These symptoms can include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, severe stiffness, and even abdominal pain. The bite area may enlarge and redden, or it may form a blister after which a wound with a black (dead) center may develop. If you think you have been bitten by a Black Widow spider (it has a red hourglass shape on its belly) or have any of the more serious symptoms, seek medical attention.
Animal bites also occur more often in the warm months. Dog and cat bites are most common. Although rabies is possible in unvaccinated domestic animals, it is much more worrisome in wild animals, specifically skunks, raccoons and bats. If you are worried about rabies seek medical attention immediately. A tetanus shot is recommended every 10 years, or 5 years for very dirty wounds. Most minor wounds that barely break through the skin can be treated by washing with soap and water, ice and regular bandaging. Wounds that are gaping, have torn flesh or are particularly deep should be evaluated by a medical specialist.
Some bites may become infected. This is more likely to occur in cat bites than dog bites. Cat bites are puncture-type wounds that cause deep bacterial penetration that is difficult to wash out. Signs of infection include more swelling, more pain, and more redness, redness that streaks or spreads up to the trunk, increased purulent drainage, or even fever. Seek medical attention for signs of infection.For bites or stings that fail to heal, The Wound Center at Columbus Regional Health can help! The Wound Center offers advanced wound healing therapies, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy and more. For more information, visit our website at www.crh.org/wound or call (812) 669-1580 to schedule an evaluation with one of our wound care physicians.