This Family Health post first appeared at tucsonaz.gov

Preventing and treating Bee, Wasp, Hornet and Scorpion stings, Spider and Snake Bites

Jump to: Spiders | Scorpions | Bees, Wasps and Hornets | Rattlesnakes

Spider Bites

Volunteers at collection events have the potential to come into contact with black widow and brown recluse spiders. As with scorpions they may be in old boxes, bags and containers brought in by participants. Spiders are usually not aggressive and most bites occur because a spider is trapped or unintentionally contacted.

Black widow spiders are identified by the pattern of red coloration on the underside of their abdomen. They are usually found in workplaces containing undisturbed areas such as woodpiles, under eaves, fences and other areas where debris has accumulated. Black widow spiders build webs between objects, and bites usually occur when humans come into direct contact with these webs. A bite from a black widow can be distinguished from other insect bites by the two puncture marks it makes in the skin. The venom is a neurotoxin that produces pain at the bite area and then spreads to the chest, abdomen, or the entire body.

The brown recluse spider is brown in color with a characteristic dark violin-shaped (or fiddle-shaped) marking on its head and has six equal-sized eyes (most spiders have eight eyes). Brown recluse spiders are usually found in workplaces with secluded, dry, sheltered areas such as underneath structures, logs or in piles of rocks or leaves. The brown recluse spider cannot bite humans without some form of counter pressure, for example, through unintentional contact that traps the spider against the skin. Bites may cause a stinging sensation with localized pain. A small white blister usually develops at the site of the bite. The venom of a brown recluse can cause a severe lesion by destroying skin tissue (skin necrosis). This skin lesion will require professional medical attention.

Symptoms associated with spider bites can vary from minor to severe. Although extremely rare, death can occur in the most severe cases. Possible symptoms resulting from a spider bite include the following:

  • Itching or rash
  • Pain radiating from the site of the bite
  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Reddish to purplish color or blister
  • Increased sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • High blood pressure

Volunteers can take the following preventive steps:

  • Check boxes, bags and containers brought in by Participants before removing contents.
  • Inspect or shake out any clothing, shoes, towels, or equipment before use.
  • Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, gloves, and boots.
  • Keep your tetanus boosters up-to-date (every 10 years). Spider bites can become infected with tetanus spores.

Workers should take the following steps if a spider bites them:

  • Immediately seek professional medical attention and notify the Site Commander.
  • Stay calm. Identify the type of spider if it is possible to do so safely. Identification will aid in medical treatment.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the bite area to reduce swelling.Elevate bite area if possible.
  • Do not attempt to remove venom.

Scorpion Stings

Symptoms of a scorpion sting may include:

  • A stinging or burning sensation at the injection site (very little swelling or inflammation)
  • Positive "tap test" (i.e., extreme pain when the sting site is tapped with a finger)
  • Restlessness
  • Convulsions
  • Roving eyes
  • Staggering gait
  • Thick tongue sensation
  • Slurred speech
  • Drooling
  • Muscle twitches
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Respiratory depression

These symptoms usually subside within 48 hours, although stings from a bark scorpion can be life threatening.

Volunteers should take the following steps to prevent scorpion stings:

  • Check boxes, bags and containers brought in by participants before unloading contents. SCORPIONS HAVE BEEN FOUND IN ITEMS BROUGHT IN BY PARTICIPANTS!
  • Inspect or shake out any clothing, shoes, towels or equipment before use.
  • Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, gloves and boots.
  • Workers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.

Volunteers should take the following steps if a scorpion stings them:

  • Contact a qualified health care provider or poison control center for advice and medical instructions.
  • Ice may be applied directly to the sting site (never submerge the affected limb in ice water).
  • Remain relaxed and calm.
  • Do not take any sedatives.

Bees, Wasp and Hornet Stings

The health effects of stinging or biting insects range from mild discomfort or pain to a lethal reaction for those workers allergic to the insect’s venom. Anaphylactic shock is the body’s severe allergic reaction to a bite or sting and requires immediate emergency care. Thousands of people are stung by insects each year, and as many as 90–100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions.

Volunteers should take the following steps to prevent insect stings

  • Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing.
  • Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants.
  • Keep work areas clean. Social wasps thrive in places where humans discard food.
  • Remain calm and still if a single stinging insect is flying around. (Swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.)
  • If you are attacked by several stinging insects at once, run indoor to get away from them. (Bees release a chemical when they sting, which may attract other bees.)
  • Volunteers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.

If a worker is stung by a bee, wasp or hornet:

  • Have someone stay with the worker to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area.
  • Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.

Rattlesnake Bites

Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes in the United States. They can accurately strike at up to one-third their body length. Rattlesnakes use their rattles or tails as a warning when they feel threatened. Rattlesnakes may be found in most the Program’s work habitats. THEY HAVE BEEN FOUND AT THE MAIN COLLECTION FACILITY.

Signs or symptoms associated with a snakebite may include:

  • A pair of puncture marks at the wound
  • Redness and swelling around the bite
  • Severe pain at the site of the bite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Labored breathing (in extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether)
  • Disturbed vision
  • Increased salivation and sweating
  • Numbness or tingling around your face and/or limbs

Volunteers should take the following steps to prevent a snakebite:

  • Do not try to handle any snake.
  • Notify your Site Commander if s snake is seen in the work area.
  • Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves when possible.
  • Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood where a snake may be hiding.
  • Be aware that snakes tend to be active at night and in warm weather.
  • Wear boots and long pants when working outdoors.

Volunteers should take the following steps if a snake bites them:

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible (dial 911) and notify your Site Commander
  • Try to remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snakebite.
  • Keep still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom.
  • Apply first aid if you cannot get to the hospital right away.
    • Lay or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart.
    • Wash the bite with soap and water.
    • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.

Do NOT do any of the following:

  • Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it.
  • Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Do not slash the wound with a knife.
  • Do not suck out the venom.
  • Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
  • Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages.

Accessed: December 20, 2017 at https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/es/ETC_COT_HHW_Volunteer_Training_Manual_CC_4-13.pdf

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