You are currently viewing Bite prevention and treatment
Brent Knight, CSP; President of ISS, Inc.

Let’s talk bite prevention. As we all know, insect and snake bites are a significant hazard in the workplace in much of the USA. How should we address this, and what are the fallacies?

First, I am sharing information that I gained by listening to a presentation by Dr. Chris Tang, who owns CAREonsite, a medical services company.

I was most surprised by what Dr. Tang said about insects, specifically spider bites, but let’s start with poisonous snakes. According to Dr. Tang, the best planning that an employer can do is to ensure that their employees have current tetanus shots and that they are set up with an emergency facility nearby and with life-flight service in place. Though most snake bites do not pose a serious threat of death, all bites should be monitored by qualified medical personnel in a hospital. Generally, this is an observation and often does not require the administration of an antivenom. It is very helpful if you can get a description of the snake or even better, a picture. This will help to determine the severity.

The shock to me came with insect bites, specifically wasps and spiders. For wasps and bees, unless a person is allergic, there is likely to be pain and discomfort but no serious effects. Again, a tetanus shot is important, and an anti-allergy medication such as Benadryl can be administered to avoid a reaction. Always clean the bite or sting with soap and water to get it clean, and try to disinfect it. This is key for bites and stings. In the case of spider bites, specifically widows and recluses, the same applies. Wash very well and observe. Dr. Tang said that a visit to offsite medical care is not necessary in most cases. In most cases, the poison from these spiders will be absorbed by the body, and the patient will be fine. In a very small percentage of patients, local tissue damage and death will occur, and the patient will need treatment, including antibiotics and potentially steroids. Again, this occurs in only a small percentage of employees, and for the most part, there will not be any lasting effects from a bite.

Until this presentation, I always thought that a poisonous spider or scorpion bite or sting required an immediate and emergency trip to the hospital. I know that my mind is at ease knowing that I just need to have Benadryl on hand and clean the location of the bite or sting very well. There is no need to seek medical attention unless the symptoms progress.