How to Tell When It's Time to Go to the Doctor after You've Been Bitten by Something

Author: Tahlia Maynard   Date Posted:10 December 2016 

How do you know when it's serious enough to seek medical help?

Camping in the Australian Outback guarantees you immeasurable adventure and unforgettable memories, but it does ask for a bit of alertness when it comes to dealing with bug bites. You can encounter a wide variety of critters in the Bush, from venomous snakes and spiders, to ticks, bees, mosquitoes and other insects. Of course, if you’re taking adequate precautions to begin with, and practicing sensible first-aid measures right after a bite, you probably won’t need medical attention. But again, there are some situations that ask for a visit to the doctor, and it’s just as important to know the tell-tale signs.

The basics – bugs you can deal with, and bugs you can’t (or shouldn’t):

It’s common sense, really. How you deal with a bite or sting depends on what has bitten you. If you have this information to begin with, you’re already halfway through. Most insect or bee stings manifest as swollen, itchy, often reddened areas on the skin. You can minimise your discomfort with the help of some topical hydrocortisone based ointments, and reduce your chances of an allergic reaction by taking an antihistamine tablet.

Bee stings in particular can be a little tricky; attempting to pull the sting out using tweezers can land you in more trouble, as you run the risk of releasing more venom into your skin. Instead, use a firm object, or just your fingernails, to scrape at the sting from the sides, till you’ve managed to remove it. Scorpion or centipede stings, and even mosquito bites, would need you to clean the area thoroughly, and apply some topical antiseptic as soon as possible.

The abovementioned bug bites are relatively easy to deal with, and unless you develop specific complications, a visit to the doctor is unnecessary. Snakes, and certain spiders and ticks present a different scenario, however, and you would need to get both first aid and precautionary medical attention.

The signs – that tell you when it’s time to go to the doctor:

Bug bites by themselves aren’t potent enough to require a doctor’s attention. But sometimes, the venom left by the bug can cause a moderate to severe allergic reaction, which in turn can make things much more complicated. Head to the doctor right away if you:

  • Experience any difficulty breathing
  • Find it hard to swallow (feel like your throat is closing)
  • Feel your heart rate rising
  • Experience dizziness or nausea
  • Develop a headache soon after a bug bite
  • Experience chest pain or tightness
  • Find your lips, tongue or face swollen
  • Experience pain or see signs of infection in the affected area (pus formation or localised increase in temperature)
  • Develop a fever, chills, flu-like symptoms or malaise, especially after a mosquito bite
  • Find rashes all over your body, which don’t subside with antihistamines
  • See a donut-shaped rash around a tick bite (could indicate Lyme’s disease)
  • Develop red or black spotty rashes, along with a fever (could indicate Rocky Mountain fever)

In addition to the above, all suspected snake bites should be dealt with professionally. Some snake bites present immediate symptoms, while others don’t manifest for several days after the bite. In either case, you’re running the risk of harbouring dangerous venom in your body. Contain the venom in the affected area with the help of a bandage, and head to the doctor right away.

Staying safe from unknown critters in the Bush is important, but can’t always be guaranteed. Do your best to stay covered, alert and duly prepped with a first-aid kit. Try to not wander too far out alone, and before you leave, figure out a way to contact your mates in the event of a mishap. And lastly, do a little background reading about the nearest doctors’ clinics in the areas you’re visiting. With this preparation and with any luck, bug bites won’t hamper your camping holiday spirit!