Dogs and cats are the most common perpetrators of animal bites. Bites from wild animals that may carry rabies, such as skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes, are less common, but often more dangerous. In the United States, physicians assume that animals such as rats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits, do not carry rabies. Pet dogs and cats that have been vaccinated rarely have rabies; however, their bites may lead to bacterial infections. Contact your local health department if a wild animal or pet with an uncertain vaccination history bites you.
- Never approach or touch a wild animal.
- Do not handle sick or injured animals.
- Do not disturb animals while they are eating.
- Wash the bite area immediately with soap and water if a healthy pet bites you.
- Check with the veterinarian regarding the pet’s vaccination status.
Seek medical attention if:
- Any wild animal or a pet with an uncertain vaccination history bites you
- If the bite breaks the skin, prompt medical evaluation for possible antibiotic treatment and tetanus update is advisable.
Insect Bites and Stings
Reactions to insect stings are spider bites are very common. Bee stings are extremely common and potentially deadly. A normal response includes pain, redness, localized swelling, and itching. However, some people have severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) that can cause hives, shortness of breath, facial or tongue swelling, dizziness, and chest pain. Such reactions can be life threatening.
To avoid bee stings when outdoors:
- Wear light-colored clothing.
- Avoid perfumes and colognes.
- Avoid going barefoot.
- Stay clear of nest and hives.
TREATMENTIf you every have experienced a severe allergic reaction to an insect sting (anaphylaxis symptoms) carry your emergency epinephrine (adrenalin) kit at all times and know how to use it. Normal reactions (no anaphylaxis symptoms) can be treated safely at home.
To remove the stinger:
- Gently scrape the stinger out the skin using a credit card or similar implement. Avoid squeezing the area of the sting, because this may release more venom.
- Wash and apply ice to the area.
- Apply a paste of baking soda and water or meat tenderizer and water to the area.
- Take a nonprescription antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) for itching and swelling.
Call 911 or otherwise seek emergency medical attention for any of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the face or tongue
- Hives or any diffuse rash
- Chest pains
Ticks live in animal fur or feathers and are generally found in grass and wooded areas. They can fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on blood. Most do not carry diseases; however, some can transmit infection.
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness causes by a deer tick bite and occurs in various regions of the United States. Early symptoms include a “bull’s eye” rash, characterized by redness with a clear white center at the bite site, which develop days to weeks after the initial bite. Flu-like symptoms and joint pain may also occur. Untreated or unrecognized Lyme disease may progress to heart and nervous system problems. Other diseases, especially babesiosis and erlichiosis, can also be transmitted by deer ticks.
- Wear light-colored clothing and tuck pant legs into your socks when working or playing in grass or wooded areas.
- Apply insect repellant according to label directions.
- Check yourself regularly for ticks while outdoors.
- Remove your clothing and check your entire body carefully after returning indoors.
The longer the tick remains attached, the higher your chance of acquiring a tick-borne illness; the greatest risk of transmission comes from engorged ticks that have been attached 48 or more hours. Do not attempt to smother the attached tick with gasoline or petroleum jelly or burn the tick off. These treatments may increase the chance of disease transmission or other skin injury or infection.
To remove the tick (method 1):
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull straight out and avoid twisting the tick. If the tick is engorged or potentially has been attached more than 24 hours, keep the tick in a bag or bottle for possible evaluation.
- Clean the area well with soap and water.
To remove the tick (method 2):
- Moisten a cotton swab (q-tip)
- Take the moistened end of the cotton swab and place the tip on the back of the tick so that it’s slightly angled, and not directly over it.
- Push the tick around in counterclockwise circles so that it rotates around its axis. After about 3-5 rotations the tick should release.
Seek medical attention if:
- You are unable to completely remove the tick
- The tick is engorged or has been attached longer than 24 hours and you live in an area where Lyme disease is common
- You develop a rash, fever, or flu-like symptoms