Self-Care Tips for Bug Bites and Stings

With the warm, summer weather comes a prevalence of biting and stinging insects such as fire ants, bees, wasps, spiders, chiggers and mosquitos.

Although applying insect repellent, covering exposed skin and avoiding perfumes can help prevent a bite or sting, these methods aren’t 100 percent effective. It’s best to be prepared in case a sting or bite occurs.

Depending on the insect, the affected areas can cause pain, itching or both. In most cases, a bite or sting can be treated with self-care. In other cases, emergent care may be needed.

If you’ve had an encounter with a biting or stinging insect, here are our self-care tips:

Stings

You’ll know when you’ve been stung by a bee, wasp or hornet by the sharp pain and burning sensation that follows. A red ring or bump will appear when you’ve been stung.

Check to see if the stinger is still in the wound. If you see the black dot or stick-like substance, remove it by using your fingernail to scrape it in the opposite direction it is faces. Never attempt to squeeze the stinger out. Once the stinger has been removed or if you do not see a stinger, wash the area with soap and water. Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling. Take Tylenol or Advil for pain as needed. If the wound becomes itchy, apply calamine lotion several times a day and take an antihistamine.

If you have an allergic reaction, this will generally occur within the first two hours. The reaction can range in severity, from nausea, cramps and diarrhea to more life-threatening symptoms such as trouble breathing, mouth or facial swelling, dizziness and faintness. If you know you are allergic to stings, take an EpiPen immediately after the sting, then take an antihistamine and call 911 (even if you’ve taken an EpiPen).

Bites

Most bug bites are harmless, but certain spider bites, such as the black widow or brown recluse, both of which are common in Nebraska, can cause illness or death. If you know or suspect a spider has bitten you, take a photo of it if you can and bring it with you to the health care facility for identification purposes.

If an insect has bitten you and you are certain it isn’t poisonous, treat the area by:

  • Washing it with soap and water
  • Avoid scratching it
  • Apply anti-itch creams such as calamine
  • Use anti-inflammatory creams like hydrocortisone cream to ease swelling and itching
  • If the itching or burning is severe, take an antihistamine
  • Rub the itchy area with an ice cube

The University Health Center can help you treat bug bites and stings as well as many other summer illnesses and injuries. Walk ins are available during the summer, or to make an appointment, call 402.472.5000.

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