Treating Insect Bites and Stings

So you've has been bitten or stung by an insect -- ouch. Stay calm. When you can, capture the offending critter for identification purposes, if needed. However, it's important to learn unusual signs including those that require a doctor's visit or immediate emergency medical care.

Normal Reactions
Most reactions you might have to contact with venom or other substances are annoying but not very serious. For those, you should learn how to treat the typical wound yourself.

Signs:

* Immediate: itching, stinging, mild swelling, short-lasting
* Delayed: fever, painful joints, hives, swollen glands
* May get either or both

How to Treat:

* Wash with soap and water
* Scrape off any stingers with something like a credit card; do not use tweezers as more venom can be released
* Place ice packs on the sting, alternating on and off, to help with pain and swelling
* Apply < a href="http://www.first-aid-product.com/industrial/hydrocortisone-cream.htm">hydro cortisone cream (0.5% or 1%), calamine lotion (not on face), or a baking soda paste to help with itching symptoms
* Take an antihistamine
* Avoid scratching the wound as it may bring on infection
* Watch for signs of infection including increased redness, swelling, or pain

Reactions that Require Medical Treatment
A doctor's visit is in order for any of these symptoms:

Signs:

* Any sting around the mouth due to the risk of swelling
* Mild nausea, cramping, and/or diarrhea
* Swelling greater than 2" diameter at wound site
* Infection

What to Tell the Doctor:

* What bit or stung you (bring the specimen if you have it)
* When you were bitten or stung
* If you've had a severe reaction to something similar in the past
* Symptoms and any changes
* Treatments you've done at home
* Other health risks you have

Reactions that Require Emergency Treatment
If you have a severe reaction, call 9-1-1 immediately. Time is important. In some situations death can occur very quickly.

Signs:

* Difficulty breathing
* Facial swelling, internally or externally
* Confusion
* Weakness
* Hives
* Elevated heart rate

What You Can Do:

* Remove rings or other constricting items
* Make sure person is lying down
* Move person on his/her side, if unconscious, to allow drainage
* Use person's emergency allergy kit, if he/she has one
* Treat for shock if person shows signs
* Begin CPR, if necessary

What Health Professionals May Do:

Emergency treatment includes shots of epinephrine and antihistamines. Other medications include oral antibiotics for infected wounds and steroids. For those in serious condition, IV's, oxygen, and heart monitors may also be needed. Follow-up to emergency care includes antihistamines and, if prescribed, steroids. After a serious episode, a person will probably be taught how to use an emergency kit and may be sent to an allergist for shot therapy.

Avoiding a Reaction
You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. Learn any specific prevention strategies for the critters that live in your part of the country -- and don't get bitten or stung!

-- Trina Lambert

External Links:
First Aid kit with Allergy Relief
Insect Repellent & Relief
< a href="http://www.first-aid-product.com/industrial/hydrocortisone-cream.htm">hydro cortisone cream
Burn and Swelling Relief Sprays
Tripple Antibiotic Ointments

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