Did you know your local poison center has the expertise to help you prevent and treat bites and stings? No matter where you live, the best prevention is to keep the Poison Help line number (1-800-222-1222) programed in your phone.
How to Prevent a Snake Bite
The species of venomous snakes in the U.S. include copperheads, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and coral snakes, though not all of these species occur everywhere in the country. Most calls to poison centers about snakes and snake bites occur between May and September. Most snakebites occur when people accidentally step on or come across a snake, frightening it and causing it to bite defensively. By practicing extra caution in snake-prone environments, many of these bites are preventable.
Prevent a snake bite by wearing protective clothing and using a stick to scare away snakes hiding in tall grass. Never touch or handle a snake.
If you are bit, do not apply a tourniquet or attempt to suck out or cut out the venom. Call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222) right away and seek additional medical help if advised by a poison expert.
Moreover, not all bites from venomous snakes result in the injection of venom. This is often called a “dry bite.” By calling a poison center for help right away, the poison experts will advise you the proper first aid for your situation.
How to Treat a Bee Sting
Stings from bees, wasps, and yellow jackets can be painful. Along with a stinger, these insects may inject a venom under the skin! The result is generally a painful, itchy bump, but someone who is allergic to the venom may have a stronger, life-threatening reaction. Here are first aid tips for these stings:
- If someone is experiencing an allergic reaction (trouble breathing, chest tightness, or swelling somewhere other than the sting site), call 911 right away.
- Use a dull, firm surface, like the edge of a credit card, to gently push the stinger out of the skin.
- Do not pinch or use tweezers. This can squeeze more venom to enter the skin.
How to Prevent Bites from Disease-Carrying Insects
There are many infectious diseases that people can get from biting or stinging insects, especially mosquitoes and ticks. According to the CDC, some of the most notable diseases include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease from ticks, and West Nile and Zika viruses from mosquitoes. Preventing these bites in the first place can protect you and your family from disease.
One of the best ways to prevent bites from disease-carrying insects is to apply insect repellent whenever you spend time outdoors, especially during the warmer months. Here are some tips for safely using insect repellents:
- Concentrations of up to 30% DEET have been shown to be safe for use on children older than 2 months, but be sure to follow application instructions carefully.
- Only use bug spray that is meant to be used on skin; never use household insect or pest killer on the skin.
- Be sure to follow application instructions carefully, and wash off the product once returning indoors.
If anyone ingests, inhales, or sprays insect repellent into the eyes, call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. If you have general questions about selecting, storing, or using insect repellent and other pesticides, visit the National Pesticide Information Center’s website or call them at 1-800-858-7378 (Mon-Fri, 8am-12pm Pacific Time).
Other Biting or Stinging Creatures
Depending on where you live and the time of year, there may be other creatures to be aware of scorpions in the southwest, jellyfish along the coasts, and even a few venomous spiders. Review the educational materials provided by your local poison center to learn more about other biting and stinging creatures in your area.