First Aid for Insect Bites and Stings

first aid for insect bites and stings

First Aid for Insect Bites and Stings

Picture this. You’re reclining on a blanket with a delectable spread of picnic food, the sun is warm, and the sounds of leaves rustling in the wind and sounds of children laughing fill the air.

Then suddenly, you’re shocked out of your calm reprieve by a stinging sensation and a bolt of pain. You’ve just been stung or bitten by something.

It can be very distressing when you or a loved one is stung or bitten. The first thing you’ll notice is pain at the sting site, followed by swelling and redness.

If the person stung experiences itching, rash, swollen eyelids, respiratory distress or an altered state of consciousness, they may be having an allergic reaction and you should call 000 or 112 immediately.

If it doesn’t appear to be an allergic reaction and the person stung or bitten is conscious, you should try the following general first aid treatments.

For bee stings, you should remove the venom barb by scraping sideways with your fingernail. In the case of a tick bite, assuming there is no tick allergy, immediately remove the tick. However, if the person has a history of tick allergy, then the tick must be killed where it is rather than removed. Once removal has been completed, apply a cold compress to the bite or sting site.

If the person has an allergy and you know this, follow their anaphylaxis plan. This could include administering an EpiPen and calling for an ambulance. If they become unconscious and stop breathing, you may need to administer CPR.


Anaphylaxis is also called severe allergic reaction and can be life-threatening. Reactions generally will occur within 20 minutes of the patient being exposed to the allergy or trigger and can have an effect on multiple body systems.

Triggers can include food allergens such as eggs, milk products, peanuts, seafood, or medications such as penicillin or morphine or it could be from the venom of a bee sting.

First signs are swelling, redness of the skin, hives and itching, followed by difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing. This happens because the throat and tongue can swell.

There may also be dizziness, nausea, vomiting and even unconsciousness.

A lot of people who have known allergies carry their medications with them including tablets, puffers and injections like an adrenalin auto injector also known as an EpiPen to administer in case of a severe allergic reaction.

If you think someone is having an allergic reaction to a bee sting, here’s what you should do.

  • If the patient is struggling to breathe in an upright position help them lie down, but if breathing becomes more difficult sit them up.
  • Remove the bee sting by scraping sideways with your fingernail.
  • Call 000 or 112 and follow their instructions.
  • Follow the patient’s emergency action plan, if they have one, including administering their EpiPen. If their emergency action plan includes a pill, but they are having difficulty breathing do not give them the pill as this could block their airways.
  • Losen any tight fitting clothing and remove any jewellery as they may swell.
  • Offer reassurance. It’s important to remember the patient is likely very uncomfortable and scared.
  • Regularly check the patient’s airways and if breathing stops follow the DRSABCD basic life support process. You can check out our blog on this here.

If you want to be able to help people and offer life-saving support when tragedy strikes, consider undertaking a first aid course. The course is cheap at only $150 and it only takes one day in class to complete but it could help you to save a life.

You can check out all of our first aid courses here.

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