First Aid Merit Badge
Spinal Injuries Insect and Animal Bites Heat Injuries
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First Aid merit badge 3E: Explain when a bee sting could be life threatening and what action should be taken for prevention and for first aid.

Tenderfoot 12B: Show first aid for bites or stings of insects and ticks; poisonous snakebite

Second Class 6C: Show first aid for bite of a suspected rabid animal

Bee Stings
There are several situations where bee stings can become life-threatening.

First, if the victim is stung in the back of the mouth or the throat, the sensitive tissues there can swell more than a sting would swell on the skin. The swelling can partially block or completely block the victim's airway, causing them to begin suffocating.

Second, if the victim is allergic to bee stings, a whole-body reaction can occur -- a condition known as Anaphylaxis (or Anaphylactic Shock). Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:

Symptoms appear very quickly; often within minutes or seconds. Anaphylaxis kills in three different ways: Anaphylaxis always requires immediate medical attention. Victims who have been diagnosed as prone to anaphylaxis will often carry an emergency dose of epinephrine (known as an "Epi-Pen"). These devices are small, single-dose, spring-loaded syringes that will inject at the press of a button. If the victim is conscious, always allow him to administer the epinephrine himself. Do not do it for him unless he is unable.

Third, bee stings can be life-threatening if the victim receives a large number of stings. In essence, this causes the victim's body to react as though he were severely allergic to bee stings and results in anaphylaxis.

Preventing bee stings can be difficult.

Insects, Ticks and Snakes
Boy Scout Handbook, pages 310-311



Injury Treatment Prevention
Bee or wasp sting (when the victim is not allergic)
  1. If the bee left behind a stinger (honeybees do this), scrape it out with a hard edge (e.g. a credit card, a business card, the back of a knife blade). Do not pull it out with your fingers -- this will only squeeze more venom into the wound.
  2. Apply a sting treatment (e.g. Sting-Eze) if one is available.
  3. Otherwise, apply a cold compress or ice to relieve the pain.
Stay away from bees and wasps. Do not swat or kill bees.
Tick bites Grab the tick with your fingers and gently pull it backwards until it comes out. Do not use tweezers. Do not twist or burn the tick. Do not use ice, alcohol, oil, wax or any other substance to remove the tick. Just pull it out.

Watch the bite area for any additional symptoms over the following week. If any rashes appear or if the bite does not heal, seek medical assistance. This could be an indication that the tick was carrying a disease (e.g. Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever).

Wear insect repellent while in wooded or grassy areas; be sure to apply repellent to legs and ankles. Wear long pants tucked into boots when possible.
Poisonous snakebite
  1. Be sure the snake was poisonous. If possible, get a good look at the snake but do not attempt to catch or kill it. If the snake can't be found, assume it was poisonous.
  2. Stay calm and keep the victim calm. Remember that defensive strikes from poisonous snakes are often "dry", meaning that no venom is injected.
  3. If the bite occurred on a limb, wrap a 2" wide constricting band around the limb above the bite. Do not wrap tight enough to cut off circulation -- only enough to delay the venom's spread throughout the body.
  4. If you have a snake bite kit, use it. If not, do not attempt to suck out the venom with your mouth.
  5. Keep the bite below the level of the heart. Have the victim lie down and treat for shock.
  6. Seek medical assistance immediately.
Most of the United States is snake country, though some areas are more heavily inhabited than others. Take care when hiking, especially on cool days in the fall or spring when snakes are likely to be out sunning themselves. Take care not to step right next to logs or rocks where snakes may be hiding. When walking, always step on top of a log so the next step is far away from its side (as opposed to stepping over it so your heel is next to the log). Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Before biting, snakes (even non-rattlesnakes) often make hissing or rattling noises (by vibrating their tails against dry leaves or grass) to frighten away predators.

Rabid Animals
Boy Scout Handbook, page 312
Rabies is an infectious disease of the central nervous system that affects both animals and humans. Rabies can be spread through contact with the saliva or blood of an infected animal (e.g. a bite from a rabid animal). If it is not treated, rabies is fatal.

Rabid animals are often aggressive or disoriented. They are always dangerous and should not be approached.

When treating a victim of an animal bite, first treat the wound as a normal puncture wound (clean with soap and water, dress and bandage). Try to identify the animal so animal control or wildlife officers can capture it later. Do not attempt to capture or kill the animal yourself.

Seek medical attention. Only laboratory testing can confirm if the animal has rabies. If the animal cannot be captured and tested, the victim will need to get rabies treatments anyway, just to be sure.

©2005 Sam Clippinger / samc (at) troop50 (dot) org
Last updated: 12/9/2005