First aid for dealing with bites and stings

Image courtesy: Dhiman Mukherji

If you are travelling to tropical destinations or going on a safari in a jungle, bites and stings come with the territory. Being bitten by exotic critters is one of the less enjoyable experiences of travel, but it needn’t put a dampener on your adventure. Here are a few first-aid measures to deal with unpleasant stingers of the air and sea.

Remember, basic first aid works only in case of minor incidents. But if you get rapid swelling from a sting anywhere, or if you experience breathing difficulties or signs of shock, such as a rapid pulse or sweating, you must immediately see the nearest doctor or visit the nearest clinic.

Bees and wasps

If the sting and its venomous sac are visible, remove with tweezers, being sure not to squeeze the venom out of its sac and into the wound. You can soothe the pain with an ice pack or damp cloth.

Ticks / bed bugs

Use a pair of tweezers to gently pull the head of the insect from the skin. Be sure to grip the head and to avoid the body bursting and spreading any germs. Twisting can help ease the process. Ticks can carry diseases, so watch out for symptoms such as a rash or fever.

Image courtesy: Diego Sinning/freeimages


Get out of the water and remove any bits of tentacle with tweezers or a gloved hand. Pour on vinegar to disable remaining stinging cells. Don’t wash it with freshwater or rub it – it may make the pain worse.


We all hate these slimy blood-suckers but try and avoid ripping them off in a panic because parts of the leech may remain in your body, causing infection. Apply alcohol, vinegar or salt to the attached end. Clean the area with antiseptic and apply pressure until bleeding stops. If you are likely to travel in a place where leeches are likely to be found, carry a small container full of salt. As soon as you spot one on your body, sprinkle some on it and it will dislodge from your skin immediately.

Image courtesy: Nitin Gairola


Even today hundreds of people die in India from snake bites. Always seek medical attention and make a note of what the snake looked like, so medics can find the right antivenin to use (if the snake is venomous). Moving around can speed the absorption of the venom, so make sure the bitten limb is immobilised with a sling.