Safety matters:  handling pest bites and stings

By Barrow Group Staff / May 19, 2023


During the summer more employees work outdoors, so it’s important to be prepared for the risk of stings and bites from different pests. Consider the following pest-related health risks:

  • Rodents (carry disease)
  • Snakes (inject poisonous venom)
  • Ticks (carry Lyme disease, typhus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever)
  • Fleas, lice and mites (carry infection)
  • Bees, wasps, hornets (venom)
  • Mosquitoes (carry West Nile Virus and St. Louis encephalitis)
  • Spiders (poisonous bites)
  • Scorpions (allergic reactions and lethal venom stings)
  • Bats (carry rabies)

Many of these pests are common throughout the United States—often creating nests or hives within the cracks or corners of roofs, in tree branches or even on various types of landscaping equipment.

While some people have minor reactions to stings or bites, others may have life-threatening reactions. Some snakes and spiders are poisonous, so any bite from them can be life-threatening. What’s more, any individual who receives multiple stings or bites at a time is at risk of experiencing complications from poisoning—including a headache, fever, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

With this in mind, review the following guidance to help prevent stings and bites on the job and respond appropriately in the event that you or a co-worker gets stung.

Preventing Stings and Bites

Consider these top tips to avoid stings or insect bites:

  • Never directly touch a rodent, whether dead or alive.
  • Do not approach nests or dens.
  • Never pick up, disturb or corner a snake. Move away immediately.
  • Never pick up or disturb a spider.
  • Avoid contact with animals that attract pests (e.g., fleas, ticks, lice, mites, bees, wasps and hornets) whenever possible.
  • Avoid wearing fragrances, scented lotions and brightly colored clothing, as they may attract insects.
  • Avoid areas like swamps, dense woods, fields and brush, if possible.


Since it is not always possible to avoid potentially dangerous animals and other pests, taking the following appropriate protective measures is also important:

  • Use insect or other types of repellents as appropriate.
  • Keep as much of your skin covered as possible. Pay attention to cuffed areas, such as ankles and wrists.
  • Wear clothing made of tightly woven material and tuck pants into work boots.
  • Use caution when working near nests and potential hiding places, such as piles of rocks or lumber, tree stumps, old buildings and outdoor restrooms.
  • Walk in open areas, wear heavy boots and carry a stick to disturb brush in front of you if snakes are a threat.
  • Keep your work area clean, and control food and garbage odors.
  • Check skin for clinging ticks following exposure.
  • Keep medication with you if you have a serious allergy to stings.

Responding to Stings and Bites

If you or a co-worker gets stung or bit on the job:

  • Tell your supervisor immediately. Have someone stay with you or your co-worker to watch for signs of an allergic reaction (e.g., excess swelling and shortness of breath).
  • Wash the sting or bite site with soap and water.
  • Remove the stinger by wiping the sting site with gauze or scraping a fingernail over it. Don’t squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
  • Limit swelling on the sting site by applying ice and refraining from scratching.
  • If you or your co-worker show signs of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

Seeking Medical Attention

If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, let your supervisor know immediately and seek medical attention:

  • Swelling larger than two inches in diameter around the bite or sting site
  • Swelling of the face, tongue or throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle stiffness or spasms
  • Rash or hives
  • Fever, nausea or vomiting
  • Severe headaches

Safety First

Safety is a priority.  Employees should talk to a supervisor if they have any further questions regarding pest bites and stings.


Topics: Pest Bites, Spider Bites, Bee Stings, First Aid, First Aid At Work, Allergic Reactions, Allergic Symptoms

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