In the event of a bite from a dog, monkey, cat, or other animal and you are in a rabies-infected country, seek medical attention immediately. You may need post-exposure vaccination even if you have been previously immunised against rabies.

Spider Bites

Remain calm as most spiders are not poisonous. If possible, catch the spider and place it in a jar, sealing it with tape so it can then be taken to the local hospital for identification.

Scorpion Bites

Scorpions are common in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, but less frequent in Asia. Scorpions are active at night, hiding under rocks or in shoes during the day. They only bite when disturbed, but the sting can be very painful. Some species are poisonous so consult a local doctor. If the pain is severe the doctor may suggest an injection of local anaesthetic to provide relief.

Snake Bites

Remain calm. Although most snake bites are not poisonous, treat any bite as if it is. Note the time of the bite and try to identify the snake from a distance. DO NOT try to catch the snake. Many people have been bitten trying to catch snakes following a bite. If possible, take note of its colouring, any unusual markings, and its general size.

  1. Remain as still as possible.
  2. Firmly apply a crepe or elastic compression bandage to the whole of the affected limb, working from the bite site first and then upwards to the trunk.
  3. Immobilise the limb with a splint to minimise the spread of the venom.
  4. Do not attempt to suck out the poison, cut the wound, or use a tourniquet.
  5. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Tick Bites

Ticks climb onto grass and other vegetation then latch onto animals and humans as they pass by. Tick Borne Encephalitis is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected tick of the Ixodes species. Ticks may breed around homes and in local parks too. Humans are often unaware that they have been bitten.


When spending time outdoors – especially in rural or forested areas – stop ticks from hitching a ride by:

  • Walking in the centre of trails, avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and trousers, tucking trousers into socks.
  • Applying Repel insect repellent to exposed skin.
  • Soaking your clothing, hat, boots, and socks with a solution of permethrin. A safe, proven contact insecticide, permethrin remains effective even after several washes.

DIY permethrin kits are available at Travel Doctor-TMVC clinics.

Most tick-borne illnesses do not develop until the tick has been attached for more than 24 hours.

Thoroughly scan your body at the end of each day. Check for ticks under arms, in and around the ears, inside the navel, behind the knees, in the groin area, around the waist, and in hair.


Using fine-tipped (not blunt noses) tweezers or a tick remover, grasp the tick from the side (not from above) as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upwards steadily. After removing all traces of the tick, clean the bite area thoroughly using antiseptic and wash your hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

Bleeding Wounds

Wear disposable gloves to minimise contact with blood. Apply firm pressure to the bleeding wound with a sterile pad for at least three minutes. Do not use a tourniquet.

If a foreign object is embedded in the wound, apply pressure around the site or on the side of the wound closest to the heart. Never remove large foreign objects in a wound as this may make the bleeding worse. Maintain pressure until the bleeding stops.

If possible, raise the bleeding area above the level of the heart. Keep the injured person warm and lying down. Take them to the nearest medical facility, or call for help. Do not leave them alone.

Nose Bleeds

Hold the affected nostril/s closed. If available, place a cold pack on the bridge of the nose. In most cases the bleeding will stop within 15 minutes. If bleeding is heavy or persistent seek medical advice.

Strains and Sprains

For the first 48 hours, the RICE regime can help to speed up healing. This regime involves:

Rest: Do not overwork the affected area while it is healing. Return to normal activities gradually.

Ice: During the first 24 hours, cooling the affected area will decrease swelling and speed healing. Apply a cold pack until the area is cold and feels numb, then remove it for 10-15 minutes (put it in the freezer, if possible). Apply the cold pack on and off for up to 24 hours.

Compression: Apply a crepe bandage to provide gentle pressure to support the injured area and protect it from further injury. Work from the end of the limb towards the trunk. Stretch the bandage slightly as you wrap.

Elevation: If possible, raise the injured part above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.

See a doctor if the injury is severe, especially if there is extensive bruising or deformity, or it is very painful when taking any weight.

Coral Cut Treatment

The treatment for coral cuts is the same as for normal wounds except that invisible particles of coral and marine slime often contaminate the wound. It is important to clean and treat even small coral cuts by:

  • Flushing them with clean water (not seawater) for five minutes.
  • Gently scrubbing the wound with sterile gauze or a new soft toothbrush to remove any contaminants.
  • Applying antiseptic powder, cream, or iodine.
  • Starting a course of oral antibiotics at the first signs of infection.
  • Seek medical advice.

Do not be tempted to ignore minor wounds. In the tropics, minor cuts and scratches can easily become infected if not treated properly and tropical ulcers can be hard to cure.

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching wounds and wear disposable gloves.
  • Flush wounds thoroughly with clean water or a saline solution. (To make a saline solution add one teaspoon of salt to one cup of clean water).
  • If clean water is unavailable, use an antiseptic cleansing tissue and wipe away from the wound to avoid further contamination.
  • After cleaning, use clean gauze to apply a thin layer of iodine.
  • Cover the wound using a plaster or non-adhesive dressing.
  • Leave the dressing for three days, then remove and apply a clean one.

Pain, swelling, redness, or a discharge from the wound is an indication it is infected and may need to be treated with antibiotics. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.