Single stings from a bee, wasp or ant, while painful; seldom cause serious problems except for persons who have an allergy to the venom. Multiple insect stings can cause severe pain and widespread skin reaction. Stings around the face can cause serious envenomation and difficulty breathing even if the person is not known to be allergic.
It is important to remember that bee stings with the venom sac attached continue to inject venom into the skin, whilst a single wasp or ant may sting multiple times.
Ticks can inject a toxin that may cause local skin irritation or a mild allergic reaction, however most tick bites cause few or no symptoms.
In susceptible people tick bite or other bites/stings may cause a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening. This can also occur in victims with no previous exposure or apparent susceptibility.
Recognition (Tick Bites and Bees, Wasp and Ant stings)
Symptoms and signs may include:
- Immediate and intense local pain
- Local redness and swelling
- Allergic reaction/anaphylaxis
- Abdominal pain and vomiting in the case of allergic reaction to insect venom.
- Airway obstruction may result from swelling of the face and tongue due to anaphylaxis, or from insect stings in or around the mouth. This may occur immediately or over several hours and always requires urgent medical care.
Management (Tick Bites and Bees, Wasp and Ant stings)
- If the victim is unresponsive and not breathing normally, commence resuscitation.
- If the victim has signs of anaphylaxis, follow Anaphylaxis action plan.
- In the case of a bee sting, remove the sting, by any means, as quickly as possible.
- In the case of tick bite, if there is no history of tick allergy, immediately remove the tick.
- If the victim has a history of tick allergy, the tick must be killed where it is, rather than removed. It is advised to use a spray containing ether, such as a wart removal spray to kill the tick and let it fall off.
- Move victim to a safe place.
- Apply a cold compress to help reduce pain and swelling.
- Monitor the victim for signs of allergic reaction (difficulty speaking, breathing difficulties, collapse and generalized rash)
- Refer the victim to hospital if sting is to the face or tongue.