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Treating bites and stings in the great outdoors

We love the great outdoors, but if you're heading into the bush this holidays, learn how to be fully prepared.

Treating bites and stings in the great outdoors

In the second of our series of summer first aid tips, Red Cross first aid trainer, Anthony Cameron provides some useful tips on stings, bites and burns.

“To treat tropical jellyfish stings” says Anthony, “wash any stingers with salt water and irrigate the area with vinegar. If vinegar is not available, apply a mixture of baking soda and water, or continue flushing with salt water.

“Do not use fresh water as it may increase the pain, non-tropical jellyfish (including the Portuguese man o’ war or blue bottle) are best treated with hot water, but not too hot, or a cold compress.”

If you suspect a person has been bitten by a venomous snake call 000 immediately. Don’t apply a tourniquet to a snake bite, just apply firm pressure to the bite site and bandage from the extreme of the limb towards the body, covering the entire limb. You can mark the bite site on the surface of the bandage.

Lie the person down in a shady area, make sure they are lying completely flat and keep them calm until help arrives. If someone is stung by a bee, remove the sting by scraping sideways.

For burns, run cool water over the burn area. The longer a burn is cooled, the less damage is done as the burn can continue for up to three hours. For severe burns that require further medical assistance, cool until the tissue is no longer hot, at least 20 minutes, then cover the burn with a burn dressing or cling film.

Only apply non-adhesive  dressings once the tissue has stopped burning as is can trap the heat. Anthony also suggests carrying a tube of hydrogel which can be applied to a burn if  cold running water is not available. Butters, creams and ointments should be avoided altogether as they only add further heat to the burn.

To purchase a Red Cross first aid kit, or to book a first aid training course online go to or call 1300 367 428. 

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