Many bugs, including mosquitoes, spiders, ticks, bedbugs, bees and wasps can bite or sting. And it may be difficult to distinguish the type of bug just from the bite. While most bites and stings are just a minor nuisance, some reactions can be painful and even dangerous to your health.
The symptoms of an insect bite result from the venom or other substance that is injected into the skin. This substance usually causes an allergic reaction that results in a raised red bump that itches or stings—this bump is called a hive. The severity of the reaction depends upon the sensitivity that the stung person has to the specific substance the bug injects.
Some people are highly allergic to certain insects, such as bees, and for them a sting can cause a severe reaction that includes symptoms in other areas of the body, such as:
- Swelling of the face, mouth and/or neck that may make it difficult to breathe
- Swelling of the eyelids that may prevent opening
- Hives over a widespread area of your body
A serious acute reaction may result in a life-threatening condition known as anaphylactic shock, which must be treated immediately by a healthcare professional—call 911 immediately if a severe reaction occurs.
Avoiding insects and situations or areas that attract insects is the best prevention. Wear protective clothing that covers your legs and arms if you anticipate possible exposure to such insects. Insect repellents applied to the skin may also help, especially on exposed areas that may be impractical to cover, such as the hands and face. Some insect repellents can also be sprayed on clothing as an additional deterrent to insects.
If you can see a stinger in your skin, pull it out with tweezers or your fingers (if you can grasp it). Do not squeeze because doing so may release more of the venom into your skin. Wash the area of the bite or sting with cool water and apply an ice pack in repeating cycles of 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.
For mild cases, nonprescription oral antihistamine medications can help suppress the allergic reaction. Topical medications, such as SARNA Original lotion, can help relieve the itch and rash. Moderate cases may also require prescription antihistamine and corticosteroid pills, creams or ointments. Severe reactions require immediate medical treatment.
Seek medical treatment immediately for severe reactions that may involve swelling of the eyes, mouth or throat that cause difficulty breathing. Severe allergic reactions require immediate intervention with epinephrine injections or antihistamines.
1. Data on file, Crown Laboratories