Most of us, when planning for our annual summer holidays, think the worst that can happen is getting badly sunburnt, a spot of sunstroke, or a bad case of the runs! But what many of us don’t realise is that our favourite European resorts are increasingly being inhabited by creatures that have a nasty sting or bite! For some of us, it could be a hospital bed, not a sun bed!
In fact, nearly 5% of all medical consultations in Europe are as a direct result of anti-venom treatment for bites and stings from both indigenous and ‘imported’ animal envenomings!
Sharp and painful facts on some of the more venomous species to be found in Europe include:
If you are travelling to the South of France, Spain or Italy, be careful that a scorpion isn’t taking up residence in your clothes, shoes or soft comfortable bedding! A sharp sting from this one’s tail will be pretty painful!
In general, scorpions are not dangerous and usually only produce a painful reaction that does not require treatment. However, some new and more dangerous ‘holiday making’ species who have arrived in imported fruit, and will give some unlucky travellers hospital treatment and a sting they won’t forget!
Spiders hit the spot in Spain and Italy!
Spiders are a common sight in most European countries, but in a few cases they can be deceivingly dangerous. The black widow, one of the most dangerous species, is leaving her mark in Mediterranean counties, especially Spain and Italy.
Generally found in barns, stables or woodpiles, only the female spider is dangerous to humans – she is easy to identify, as she has two clear red spots on her belly!
Bites from her produce some nasty and uncomfortable results such as intense pain, nausea, vomiting, headaches and in severe cases convulsions! Signs and symptoms progress for up to 24 hours and then gradually resolve themselves. But in some cases, particularly with children and the elderly, infection must be prevented and treated vigorously in hospital!
Snakes in Europe!
Snakes are the most feared venomous creatures in the world. And although the annual incidence of snake bites in Europe is less frequent, it is estimated that in European countries 15,000-20,000 snake bites result in about 50 deaths per year! Lethal cases have been reported in France and in Switzerland, almost 50% of envenomings from non-native species are due to snake bites and about 10% of cases are severe.
Viper bites are the most common, and although vipers may vary in size and appearance, their venom is very similar! Most snake bites occur between May and October and mostly affect men, particularly their upper limbs. So gents, if you decide to take a walk off the beaten track, make sure your feet and legs are covered if you want want protection from the unseen fangs of the undergrowth!
Jellyfish are very common in the clear Mediterranean waters. Recognisable by their coloured ‘jelly float’, the Portuguese man-o-war is infamous for its stinging tentacles which can deliver a lasting and often excruciating sting! Immersing the area stung in very hot water is often the best remedy, followed by soothing calamine lotion and treatment with antihistamines and analgesics to reduce the reaction and pain.
If you are unlucky enough to be stung or bitten, you could face equally painful medical expenses if you don’t have protective travel insurance or international medical insurance cover. Make sure your insurance covers these incidents and extends to the geographical area you are visiting.