How to deal with insect stings and bites

The signs and symptoms of an insect sting or bite can be due to the injection of venom or other substances into the skin. The venom causes pain and can trigger an allergic reaction. The severity of the reaction typically depends on the sensitivity to the venom or substance and if the individual has been bitten or stung more than once.

Majority of responses to insect stings and bites are mild, resulting to minor itchiness or callous sensation and minor swelling that can disappear in just a day or two. In case of a late reaction, it can cause hives, fever, swollen glands and sore joints. An individual can experience both the immediate and delayed reactions from the same insect sting or bite. A small percentage of individuals can develop severe reactions to the venom.

Signs and symptoms of a severe reaction to insect stings or bites

insect sting or bite

Abdominal pain is one of the symptoms of a severe reaction to an insect sting or bite.

  • Facial swelling
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Deterioration of circulation and blood pressure

Bites from wasps, bees, hornets, fire ants and yellow jackets are considered the most troublesome. Ticks, mosquitoes, ants, biting flies, scorpions and some spiders can also cause reactions.

What to do for mild reactions

  • Move the individual to a safe area in order to avoid additional stings or bites
  • Remove the stinger, particularly if it is stuck in the skin. This will prevent the release of more venom and wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in towel to minimize swelling and pain.
  • Provide a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the pain from the insect stings and bites.
  • Use a topical cream to minimize the pain as well as provide relief from itchiness.
  • If prescribed by a doctor, provide an antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine.

The allergic reactions can include mild nausea, diarrhea, intestinal cramps or even swelling bigger than 4 inches in diameter. If these are present, it is best to consult a doctor.

Severe reactions

For severe reactions, they can affect more than just the site of the bite or sting and can progress at a fast pace. Call for emergency assistance if the following symptoms are present:

  • Swelling of the lips or throat
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Hives
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cramps

While waiting for the medical team to arrive, you have to perform the following first aid measures:

  • Check for any medications that the individual is carrying in order to treat an allergic reaction such as an EpiPen. Administer the medication as directed by pressing it on the thigh and holding in place for several seconds.
  • Tight clothing must be loosened and cover the individual with a blanket. Avoid giving the individual anything to drink.
  • Turn the individual on his/her side to prevent choking in case there is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth.
  • Perform CPR if there is no breathing or pulse.
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