Bites And Stings

Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B J Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India
First Created: 01/06/2005  Last Updated: 08/01/2015


Many bites and stings are minor and although irritating, respond well to simple first aid. Bites from humans and animals may be more serious. Because their mouths harbor many germs that can cause infection, these wounds always require medical attention. Snake bites pose a problem due to the venom that may be injected.

Insect stings

Many insect stings are painful but rarely present any danger to life. Occasionally, someone may be allergic to particular insect stings and suffer a more serious reaction. In more extreme cases, this may be a super-sensitive reaction called anaphylactic shock which can be fatal.


  • Remove any sting left in the skin. Use a pair of tweezers. Ensure that you 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 10-15 minutes. If the reaction is severe or irritation persists beyond 48 hours, seek medical advice.

Stings in the Mouth or Throat

The resultant swelling can cause partial or complete obstruction of the casualty's airway. Stings in and around the mouth can be fatal and should always be treated as an emergency.


  • Give the casualty ice to suck. Call for an ambulance.
  • Keep the casualty calm and discourage crying or speaking as this may increase the swelling.
  • Monitor the casualty for any signs of breathing difficulties.

Animal and Human Bites


Bites from animals (and humans) can leave very nasty wounds. The teeth carry infection into the tissues and any bite that punctures the skin always needs to be seen by a doctor. Human bites cause problems due to the crushing of underlying tissues which often is not visible to the person providing first aid.

Animal bites may transmit rabies. This is a Viral Infection that affects the nervous system and may be fatal. Do not approach any animal that shows a fear of water, or is acting in an irrational or aggressive manner. If you are bitten seek medical help.

Treatment for Animal and human bites

For a Serious Wound:

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

For a Minor Wound:

  • 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.
  • Apply a suitable dressing.
  • Advise the casualty to seek medical advice.

Snake Bites

Very rarely are snake bites poisonous. The commonest poisonous snakes are Cobra, Viper, Krait and Rattlesnake.

You may notice:

  • A pair of puncture marks.
  • Pain and discomfort around the site of the bite.
  • Swelling and redness around the site of the bite.

If the patient has:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Visual problems
  • Excessive sweating

Take the child to the hospital immediately.

Treatment for Snake Bites:

  • Keep the casualty calm and lay him/her 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 remain localized.
  • Call for an ambulance.
  • Immobilize the affected part if the casualty becomes restless.

    • Do not attempt to suck out the poison.
    • Do not open the wound with a knife to release the poison.
    • Do Try to Identify the Snake, its coloring and Pattern of Markings as it may help to determine whether the snake was poisonous or not.

    Bites and Stings Bites and Stings 2015-08-01
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