You are reading Holidays: do you know how to protect yourself from insect bites, snakes and jellyfish?


Holidays: do you know how to protect yourself from insect bites, snakes and jellyfish?

August 1, 2018

During the summer holidays the time spent outdoors is comparably higher than in the other months of the year. Therefore, it is easier to get stung from insects and bitten by reptiles or marine animals. Do you know how to manage these inconveniences in the best possible way and avoid the consequences, both at sea and in the mountains? We talked about this topic with Professor Antonio Costanzo, dermatologist at Humanitas.


At the sea: attention to jellyfish

“It is a very painful experience to be stung by one or more of these marine creatures with very long tentacles while swimming at sea and it can become even more intense if you use fresh water to wash the part of your body stung by jellyfish – explains Professor Antonio Costanzo, Director of the Dermatology Unit of the Humanitas Hospital and Professor at Humanitas University. – In fact, fresh water, both hot and cold, promotes the development and diffusion of neurotoxins, i.e. substances toxic to the central nervous system, produced by the contact of the long tentacles of the jellyfish with the skin. In case of jellyfish sting, it is necessary to intervene effectively and immediately avoiding improvised do-it-yourself treatments, to avoid the spread of toxin and soothe the effects of contact, i.e. itching, in the mildest forms, burning pain, swelling and possible blisters on the skin”.


Thus, here are the effective actions in the event of jellyfish stings:


– Eliminate any residues of tentacles

– Wash thoroughly with cold seawater.

– Wash with a mixture of seawater and sodium bicarbonate or ammonia, diluted in seawater

– In case of intense burning and clustered vesicles: before using cortisone ointments, antihistamines and painkillers, consult a dermatologist.

– In case of itching: even if strong, avoid scratching the skin because, stimulating the muscular action promotes the spread of poison.


‚ÄúTraditional” remedies such as ammonia and urine should therefore be avoided when stung by a jellyfish. Afterwards, cortisone ointments are good, remembering that, once stretched, the skin should not be exposed to the sun because it can stain. In the case of the jellyfish, also rub the affected site with a piece of hard plastic to take away the vesicles of the tentacles that remain attached.

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In the mountains: spiders, scorpions and vipers

Summer is often ‘plagued’ by bees and wasps attracted by food and soft drinks. However, the stings of these insects, apart from swelling and pain, do not pose a real risk. When you get stung, you have to try to extract the sting without breaking it, then make packs of cold water or ice against swelling and local treatments based on cortisone ointments and antihistamines. In the very rare cases of allergic reactions, which occur with respiratory difficulties, contact a doctor immediately for the administration of adrenaline.


The viper is the only dangerous snake in Italy and those who are bitten should be taken to the emergency room as soon as possible. At the bite site, the poison causes pain and swelling but through the lymphatic ducts it can move from the site of injection and cause a systemic reaction. Only in this case should antivipera serum be administered, but since it can create anaphylactic shock, it should only be administered in situations where any adverse reactions can be managed. While waiting for assistance, it is possible to make a bandage with elastic gauze to gently compress the place of the bite and limit the passage of the venom through the lymphatic vessels”.

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