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How to treat insect bites

The warm weather and all that extra time outdoors puts your family at risk for bug bites, ranging from bees and spiders to scorpions and ticks, depending on where you live. Avoiding insect infected areas and wearing insect repellent are helpful in prevention, but knowing how to treat bug bites once they occur will minimize the impact bug bites have on your family’s health.

Wasp Sting

Treatment for stings

Bee and wasp stings can be painful but are usually not considered a medical emergency unless the person stung has an allergic reaction. Bees sting once and leave a stinger with a venom sac attached to the skin, while wasps don’t lose their stinger and can sting multiple times.


If you are stung by a bee or wasp:


For bee stings, remove stinger as quickly as possible.
Wash sting site with warm water and soap and keep it clean and dry until the skin heals.
Apply an ice pack or cold compress for a few minutes.
Administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain management.
Apply calamine lotion or a corticosteroid cream to minimize itching.
Seek medical care if swelling and a rash develop, the pain lasts for more than 3 days, or the person is exhibiting symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as wheezing, swelling of the lips and face, or tight chest.


If the sting occurs in the mouth, seek medical help immediately since this can lead to severe swelling that blocks the airway passages.


Treatment for spider bites

Spider bites can be serious if the spider is venomous, such as the black widow, found throughout the US, or brown recluse spider, found primarily in the midwestern and southern US. Most spiders, however, are not poisonous. The black widow is easily identified by a black round body and orange hourglass on the underbelly. The brown recluse is a brown spider with a small violin-like shape on its back.


If you are bitten by a spider:


Wash bite with warm soapy water and keep area clean and dry until skin heals.
Apply an ice pack or cold compress.
Administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
Apply a topical antiobiotic and avoid touching the bite.
Seek medical attention if you suspect a black widow or brown recluse spider, or the bite site swells and develops a rash, which can indicate an infection.


Treatment for scorpion bites

Scorpions, which are common in the Southwest desert areas of the US, can inflict a painful sting. Of the dozens of scorpion species in the US, only the bark scorpion, is considered dangerous, particularly for kids and the elderly.


If you are stung by a scorpion:


Wash the sting site with warm soapy water and keep it clean and dry until the skin heals.
Apply a cold compress for a few minutes.
Always seek medical attention if a child is stung by a scorpion and make sure adults seek medical attention if symptoms worsen over the next few hours.


Treatment for tick bites

Though only a small percentage of ticks carry potentially dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, immediate removal of the tick and proper treatment of the tick bite will reduce the risk of infection. Your risk for tick bites is highest in grassy, wooded areas.


If you are bitten by a tick:


Use tweezers to firmly grasp the tick near the tick’s mouth by the skin and pull firmly until the tick releases its bite.
Swab the bite site with alcohol.
Keep the bite site clean and dry to avoid infection.
Place tick in a resealable plastic bag and take it to your doctor for identification, especially if you live in an area where tick-transmitted illness is common.


Be sure to vigilantly check for ticks on your clothing, skin and hair as well as your pets after outdoor activities.

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