Bites and stings

Receiving a bite or sting is never a pleasant experience, and may require medical attention, sometimes immediately after they occur. At HonorHealth, whether you receive treatment in one of our emergency departments or Wound Care clinics, we partner with you to create a personalized treatment plan. Our dedicated, knowledgeable and caring providers will ensure you receive the best care possible. Our goal is to help you heal and prevent complications from a bite or sting.

Bites and stings can come from dogs, cats, humans, insects, spiders, scorpions and snakes, and are common among all ages. However, the reaction to bites and stings may be more severe in children and older adults. You’re also at a greater risk for a bite or sting if you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in rural, desert or wooded locations.

Dog, cat and human bites

Dog, cat and human bites are common. Dog bites account for 85 to 90% of animal bites, while cat bites account for 5 to 10% in the U.S. Around 250,000 human bites are reported each year – mostly from children who are play fighting. Wounds from these bites are considered “dirty wounds” that are grossly contaminated with bacteria.

Proper wound treatment is important to prevent infection and further damage to the area of the bite. Additional factors can come into play with an animal bite, including the risk of rabies or a foreign body, such as a tooth stuck in the wound, and require medical attention at an emergency department. If the bite is from an animal, you may need rabies injections. You can also get tetanus from an animal bite, which is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection. Adults should make sure they are up to date on their tetanus shots.

What to do for bits and stings. Quality information from medical experts at HonorHealth.

Insect and spider bites and stings

Bites and stings from insects and spiders can introduce a toxin – a substance produced by the insect or spider injected into the tissue – that increases the risk for complications, including tissue damage.

Toxins can also cause pain, swelling, redness and itching. Initial treatment should include cleaning with soap and water, and applying a cool compress. In some cases, a severe reaction to the toxin can occur. Things to look for include difficulty swallowing or breathing, or blurred vision. If you have any these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Scorpion stings

Scorpion stings are common in the Southwest. When stung, initially, there may be tingling, burning or numbness extending from the site of the sting. While they are rarely life-threatening, you should seek medical attention if your symptoms get worse two to three hours after being stung. Also seek medical attention if you develop a more severe reaction immediately following the sting, such as difficulty swallowing or breathing, or blurred vision. If you are having difficulty swallowing, do not try to swallow pills, food or liquids.

Typically, the pain will be gone in about 24 hours. The numbness and tingling around the area of the sting may last two to three days.

Snake bites

In Arizona, rattlesnake bites are the most concerning. While rarely fatal, if a rattlesnake bite is left untreated, severe medical problems can occur. If you are bitten, seek medical care immediately by calling 911, as the venom will damage tissue and can affect the circulatory system.

Initial symptoms include redness, swelling, numbness and pain, which can progress to weakness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, blurred vision and difficulty breathing. While waiting for medical care, wash the area with soap and water, and remove any objects like rings, watches and tight clothing from the affected limb. If possible, elevate the bitten area above your heart. An emergency department can administer anti-venom shots to help neutralize the snake’s venom.

Risk factors

The age of the person stung or bitten, as well as location are important to consider for the next steps of medical care. If a bite or sting occurs on a person under age 14, or is located on the hands or face, the risk of complications and scarring increases. The person is also at higher risk if they have any medical conditions, including diabetes, liver disease, cancer, HIV, compromised blood flow or are taking any medications that may weaken their immune system.

Animal and human bites can introduce dangerous bacteria into the body that can lead to infection of the soft tissues, bones or joints, especially in the hand where most bites occur. While most bites do not initially appear to be serious by looking at the wound, it is better to seek medical attention to limit further illness or injury.

Wound Care services at HonorHealth

We welcome the opportunity to help you manage and care for your wound. Call 480-324-7700 to make an appointment. Learn more about Wound Care services at HonorHealth and find a location near you.

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