Living in Australia we all know they’re around, those creepy-crawlies, slithery, stinging creatures that inhabit the planet with us. We are fortunate enough to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, it is inevitable that our paths will cross.
Biting/stinging insects may join us on the family picnic. Jellyfish lurk in the waves during a day at the beach. A brown snake may happen to pass through the tables of a child’s birthday party (a first-hand experience). While most of us know to steer clear of such animals and insects, our curious kids want to understand the world around them – even if it hisses.
Every parent should know first aid and CPR, equipping them with the confidence and ability to manage these situations. Be prepared with appropriate clothing while outdoors, follow walking trails and swim at patrolled beaches.
If bitten or stung, the following first aid is recommended:
Insects are the most common cause of bites and stings, usually resulting in painful but not dangerous reactions. Simple first aid measures will provide relief. Remove the sting (do not use tweezers), wash the area and apply a cool compress to reduce pain and swelling. At all times monitor for signs of an allergic reaction – and seek medical assistance, if necessary.
A bite from a snake can be painless and without any visible marks, so other symptoms include: headache, nausea, vomiting, pain, vision changes, difficulty breathing/speaking/swallowing, weakness, paralysis and collapse. Ensure you are out of danger, call 000 and apply the Pressure Immobilisation technique to restrict venom movement. Keep the child calm and still, with reassurance and distraction. Apply the same first aid for funnel-web spider, blue ring octopus and cone snail envenomation.
Most spider bites can be treated symptomatically with observation and the application of ice for pain relief. If you are concerned, see your GP. However, there are a few species that, if bitten, can pose a threat to life: the red-back spider (usually only a threat to the young and the elderly), the funnel-web spider and large black spiders over 2 cm, such as mouse spiders.
Recognition of a red-back spider bite:
- Instant pain at bite site
- Hot, red, swelling at the bite site
- Feeling sick and vomiting,
- Stomach pain
- Sweating (especially at the bite site)
- Swollen sore glands in the groin/armpit of the affected limb.
If your child is bitten by a redback spider, call 000, apply ice or cold compress for pain and watch your child until medical assistance arrives. Do not apply pressure to the area as this can increase the pain.
Recognition of a funnel-web or venomous black spider bite:
- Pain at site
- Tingling around the mouth
- Drooling/copious amounts of salvia
- Stomach pain
- Twitching muscles/tongue
- Breathing difficulties
- Confusion, which can lead to unconsciousness.
Call 000 for help, and apply the same Pressure Immobilisation technique used for a snake bite. Do not allow the person to walk, which increases the spread of venom. Commence resuscitation if necessary.
There are many beautiful and venomous jellyfish in and around our beaches, unfortunately, a ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot be taken to first aid management. Instead, management changes if you have been stung in the tropics (Bundaberg, QLD and northwards, around to Geraldton, WA), as there is a risk it has come from a potentially lethal jellyfish.
- Leave the water
- Call for assistance
- Douse area in vinegar for 30 seconds
- If vinegar is unavailable, use seawater
- Apply ice
- Leave the water
- Remove remaining tentacles
- Rinse with seawater
- Immerse stung area into water hot enough for the child to tolerate (remember, children’s skin burns at a lower temperature to adults (see: burns article))
- Seek medical assistance
Read more about Australian bites and stings:
- Australian resuscitation council
- AUSTRALIAN BITES & STINGS: First aid guide to Australian venomous creatures
- Australian Venom Research Unit