Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Remedies for stings and bites


Jellyfish: Rinse the wound with seawater. Do use not fresh water, as this may stimulate more nematocysts, the jelly’s stinging cells, which become embedded in the skin, Auerbach said. Remove any tentacles with forceps or a gloved hand. Apply a compress soaked in vinegar or isopropyl rubbing alcohol to the wound for about 30 minutes or until the pain subsides. Then apply a lather of shaving cream and shave the affected area with a safety razor to remove any remaining nematocysts. If the stinging sensation persists, reapply the compress for another 15 minutes. An allergic reaction may cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, hives, a swollen tongue or collapse. In this case, call 9-1-1 and use an epinephrine auto-injector, such as an EpiPen, if available.

Rattlesnakes: Get medical care immediately. If possible, call 9-1-1 and immobilize the affected extremity using a splint, but don’t compress the wound, Norris advised. “Don’t worry about other first aid,” he said. “If you’re in the wilderness, do whatever you need to get to a hospital, even if it means walking for a couple of hours. Time is the issue.” As long as bite victims are given antivenom within a few hours, their lives are rarely in danger.

Ticks: Remove the tick with tweezers, grasping it as close to the skin as possible and pulling steadily. Don’t jerk or twist, which may leave part of the animal in the skin. Wash your hands and clean the wound with soap and water before applying a mild antiseptic. It may be useful to save the tick, in case it’s needed later for identification or lab tests.

Lyme disease is not likely to be transmitted if the tick was attached to you for less than 48 hours, Norris said. In about 75 percent of infected people, a bull’s-eye-shaped skin rash appears an average of seven to 10 days after the bite. If you observe this rash or suffer from flulike symptoms within one or two weeks after being bitten, seek medical care. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.

Yellow jackets: Quickly remove the stinger if it is embedded in the skin (though this usually doesn’t happen in the case of wasp stings), brushing it off with the edge of a fingernail or a credit card, or pulling it out with your fingers or tweezers. Apply ice or a cold compress to the sting—20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may offer some relief. Applying a local antihistamine lotion to the sting also may help. Expect swelling, redness and possible blistering. If you have a history of allergic reactions to insect stings, it’s advisable to keep an epinephrine auto-injector on hand, such as the EpiPen, Lipman said.


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