The World Health Organization is concerned about the high level of morbidity and mortality of the population due to insect and animal bites. This is confirmed by Information Bulletin No. 373 of the World Health Organization, according to which this problem does not lose its relevance for national health systems even with account taken of the development of modern medicine.
Yuri A. Sokolov, the head of the training and retraining program for military paramedics of the Department of Military Health Maintenance Organization and Emergency Medicine of the educational establishment “Belarusian State Medical University”, Associate Professor, Colonel of the Medical Service, explained why are insect and animal bites dangerous, what are their possible consequences, how to provide first aid to the victim, etc.
Ticks: things you must know about
When the weather is warm, people spend much time outdoors. But while walking, they may be in danger. To avoid the troubles, you should follow some simple rules.
One of these dangers is tick bites. The period of their top activity falls at the period from the end of May to the beginning of June, the second period of activity falls on August – September. Moreover, cases of tick bites occur not only when resting in the suburban areas, but also in summer cottages, as well as in the public parks of cities, and Minsk is no exception in this regard.
It should be noted that the tick bite itself is harmless. But the ticks are responsible for spreading potentially-life threatening infectious diseases such as encephalitis, Lyme disease, tetanus.
In order to prevent tick bites when visiting forests and parks, it is necessary to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs; tuck shirts into pants and tuck pants into socks; and wear light-colored clothing to also help you see if a tick is on you. Wear a kerchief and hat to protect your neck and head. The use of repellents has a fairly high prophylactic effect. It is not recommended to sit or lie down on the grass, the best option will be to lay a blanket. While walking outdoors check your clothing for ticks regularly. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas.
If you do find a tick on yourself or a family member, be sure to stay calm. Don’t panic! It is important to remove the tick properly. The main task in this case is to limit the access of oxygen to the insect head as much as possible. To do this, you need to drip ethyl alcohol (cologne, another alcohol-containing liquid) over the tick’s mouthparts. Soon the insect will start looking for exits. It is necessary to wait until its front legs appear. After that, you should carefully take the tick by the abdomen with tweezers and twist it counter-clockwise. You should treat the bite site on your skin with iodine, alcohol or any other antiseptic.
You should place the tick on a napkin moistened with cold water, and put it in a jar with screw lid. Each tick must be examined carefully by the staff of the local center for hygiene and epidemiology, who will determine whether the insect is a carrier of any infection. Depending on the result of the research, further tactics of treatment will be determined.
In any case you must visit doctor! The doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for five days, and tetanus jab. Then you will have to measure the body temperature for 10–14 days. If there is the slightest change in your normal body temperature, you should visit doctor as soon as possible.
Injection of immune globulin may be also necessary for prevention of encephalitis and Lyme disease (if the tick was their carrier).
Bees, wasps and others
According to medical statistics, deaths from the bite of other insects are also rather common. Hymenopterans like bees, wasps, bumblebees pose the greatest danger to humans. Moreover, single stings are not dangerous (if the person is not prone to allergic reactions). The most pronounced clinical picture is observed in the first 15–20 minutes after the sting. Common symptoms include weakness, dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness. In most people, the swelling and pain go away within a few hours. But severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to bee stings is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. A small percentage of people who are stung by a bee or other insect quickly develop anaphylaxis. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include: skin reactions, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue, a weak, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness or fainting, loss of consciousness.
Patients stung in the head or neck require special attention. If, after a sting, the patient has a hoarse voice or there is a change in it, shortness of breath, it is required to immediately deliver the patient to a hospital. Such patient must be in an elevated position, it is forbidden to lay down because of the risk of airway edema.
The firs aid to such patients includes emergency measures to stop the intake of poison in the body. To do this, you need to carefully pull the sting out of the wound with tweezers. In order to reduce pain and swelling, apply the ice or any frozen product wrapped in a plastic bag to the sting site. Natural home remedies will help remove a swelling from a bee sting: parsley, plantain leaves, olive oil, onions, aloe. It will be good for patient to immobilize the affected area of the body.
The dog is biting too
According to the experts of the World Health Organization, more attention should be paid to the activities related to the prevention of human bites by pets, in particular – by dogs. Tens of millions of people are bitten by dogs every year, including a considerable number of children. If we talk about the deaths, the deaths by dog bites are at second place in the list of deaths from all types of bites (on average, 25 thousand of them are registered per year). The sad leadership is “held” by snakes – 50 thousand human deaths around the world annually. For comparison: 10 people die from wolf bites, 100 people die from lions, 10 thousand people die from tsetse flies every year. The main cause of death is animal-to-human transmission of the rabies virus and delayed action.
What to do if a pet has bitten? First of all, you need to rinse the wound with plenty of water, and wash off the saliva from the skin with soapy water. If there is heavy bleeding, you need to take measures to stop it: apply a pressure bandage when the blood is strong, with minor bleeding - aseptic. You also need to debride the edges of the wound with an antiseptic.
Then the patient must be brought to the doctor as soon as possible. To prevent rabies, the patient will be prescribed the injection of rabies vaccine, and in case of severe bites, additional gamma globulin, which is especially effective in the first 72 hours after the bite. As a preventive measure, antibacterial drugs and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed are prescribed. If necessary, the injured limb is immobilized. The patient is usually treated at outpatient hospital. However, an increase in pain, swelling, reddening of the wound, various kinds of discharge from a wound, chills, weakness should serve as a reason for repeated visits to the doctor and hospitalization.
It is very important to observe the animal for 10 days. If during this period the animal run away, got sick or died, then the patient will be obliged to undergo a full course of vaccination. If the animal is wild, or domestic without rabies vaccination, or the vaccination period has expired, then the rabies vaccination is still prescribed, while the animal is being monitored.
To avoid an animal bite, you must follow basic rules. Firstly, the animal should not be disturbed during sleep and eating, and secondly, you should not grab his tail, paws and ears. After having time with a four-legged friend, you should wash your hands with soap and water. What concerns wild animals, it is better to avoid them at all. If the animal’s behavior is aggressive, it is not recommended to look directly into the animal’s eyes, shout, swing arms, or run. You need to step back slowly and carefully, without turning your back, controlling the actions of the animal with peripheral vision.
Better not touch the snakes at all
Snake bites, fortunately, are less urgent problem in Belarus. The class of dangerous reptiles in Belarus is represented only by the European adder. Nowadays we register only single cases of snake bites in comparison to 1992 when approximately 20-30 cases of such snake bites were registered in the republic.
Most often, snakes live in tall grass, wetlands. That’s why it is important to put on high boots and check the road with a stick while walking there.
Note that snake never attacks first. Its attack can be provoked by any aggressive actions by human. Therefore, in case you noticed a snake, you should be calm and you must not touch the reptile.
The lower extremities are most often affected by snake bites, although hand bites are also recorded. If we talk about the symptoms, they are local: blood oozes from two puncture wounds; burning pain, swelling that grows in the first three days, redness are observed. On the second day, signs of local tissue necrosis appear. In addition, a syndrome of general intoxication occurs, which is manifested by weakness, dizziness, unpleasant after-taste, thirst, and an increase in body temperature.
The next group of symptoms manifests itself as nausea and vomiting. There is a pronounced disorder of breathing, blood circulation. In severe cases, there may be a disorder of consciousness, convulsions.
What to do in case of snake bite? First, try to calm down the patient and lay him down on a flat surface to reduce blood flow and absorption of the poison. Second, try to immobilize the injured limb, using, for example, branches, a board, an umbrella, etc. Then you need to suck the poison out of a snakebite. Use the technique of setting a medical jar, for example, use a glass (it should be burned from the inside and applied to the bite site, creating a vacuum). Also, provide the patient with enough amount of water to reduce the concentration of toxins and poisons in blood. Cool the bite site. After providing first aid, the patient should be taken to the hospital.
In the vast majority of cases, insect and animal bites pass without consequences if a person has a normal immune response. However, it is impossible to predict how a certain person will react to a bite. The fact is that the number of people with altered immune response is much higher than registered. Therefore, the chances of an anaphylactoid reactions, or even anaphylactic shock are quite high. That’s why if you observe edema of the bite site, weakness, loginess, respiratory disorders, decrease in arterial pressure, you must visit the doctor immediately or take the patient to the hospital.
Author: Oksana Kurbeko, spokesperson
Photo: from the archive of the Faculty of Military Medicine and open sources
Translation: Varvara Boika