Public Information Officer – Tempe Fire Department
With Tempe having pleasant weather most of the year, many people take advantage by hiking, cleaning their yard or playing in the park. Every year, thousands of people are bitten by snakes, insects, scorpions and Africanized honey bees in the United States.
More than half of the venomous snakebites involve children, and most occur between April and October. Rattlesnake bites account for a majority of snakebite fatalities. Symptoms generally occur immediately, but only about one third of all bites show any symptoms. Snakebite venom contains some of the most complex toxins known; venoms can affect the central nervous system, brain, heart, kidneys and blood.
Insect bites and stings are very common and most are considered minor. It’s only when the insect is venomous or when the patient has an allergic reaction that the risk of developing anaphylactic shock turns the situation into an emergency. Even under those conditions, accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment can save lives. The normal reaction to an insect sting is a sharp, stinging pain followed by an itchy, swollen, painful raised area. The swelling may be there for several days, but usually goes away within 24 hours. Local reactions are rarely serious or life-threatening and can be treated with cold compresses.
There are many species of scorpions found in Arizona, but only one is potentially lethal and that’s the bark scorpion. It’s one of the smaller species and prefers cool, dark places. Ninety percent of all scorpion stings occur on the hands. Symptoms may include sharp pain at the site of the sting, swelling that gradually spreads, discoloration, nausea and vomiting, restlessness, drooling, poor coordination, incontinence or seizures.
Africanized honey bees are the cousin of the more common European honey bee found in Arizona. They often are called "killer bees," but in reality their stings are less potent and painful than the common bee sting. They defend their nesting sites very aggressively, sometimes stinging their victims hundreds of times. If you are attacked, run as quickly as you can away from the bees. Do not flail or swing your arms, as this may further annoy the bees. Because bees target the head and eyes, cover your head as much as you can without slowing your escape. Get to shelter as quickly as possible. If someone has been stung by many bees at once or has an allergic reaction to a bee sting, call 9-1-1. Call the fire department if someone has become trapped in a building or car with lots of bees. Fire trucks are equipped with foam that can be sprayed on the bees to drown them. Do not call the fire department to remove bee colonies or hives. If you want bees removed, look in the yellow pages under "bee removal" or "beekeepers."
For any bite or sting, call the fire department only when emergency medical services are needed. For a complete list of symptoms and treatments, visit www.tempe.gov/fire
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