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Stings A Bit - How to Handle Summertime Stings and Bites

Summer is full of great memories! Sitting in the sun poolside, summer evenings spent on the back deck or maybe sitting fireside telling ghost stories while camping! The summer air feels different, and time seems to change, slow down a bit. But so to with all this warmth, sun, and splendor comes some pesky little bugs: bees, mosquitoes and other stinging insects! While summertime may be rife with warm memories it's also full of the sound of the hum of all sorts of creatures!

As we get out and explore our community or state, we can encounter bees and other stinging insects. This raises the question, do you know what to do after a bug bite or sting happens? How to treat them to alleviate the itch, swelling, or pain? When is it okay and when is it time to call in medical assistance? We've compiled a list to help along with some tips and notes on when to consult your physician. Read on to learn more!

1.) Change Your Scenery

If you are being bitten by mosquitoes or have been stung by a bee, it's best to change your proximity. Obviously with the mosquito population you may have to withdraw indoors for a bit, or if camping back to your tent; bees have their own sensitive nature to a sting and alert others meaning more stings could result. So move away from the area where the incident occurred.

Here are some tips for dealing with bites and stings initially:

  • Try not to "react fast". As humans, our knee-jerk reaction is to swat or move our arms and hands around to ward off any further sting. But quickly moving, running, even swatting can mean that what venom was placed in our skin with the bug bite will now move even quicker.
  • If you have been stung by a bee, wasp or hornet, and can locate the stinger still within the skin attempt to remove it as soon as possible. Another idea is also to lower the extremity that was stung. If it's a leg keep it low, a hand or arm keep it below your heart level. Bees and other stinging insects do leave venom when they sting, especially wasps and hornets.
  • If you are prescribed an emergency epinephrine auto injector (Epi-Pen or others) for previous allergic reactions to stings use it right away.

2.) Begin Home First-Aid

If stung apply an ice pack to the area for about 15-20 minutes. You don't want to keep it on any longer than that as it can damage your skin. In between applying ice try applying a cool wet compress for 4-6 hours.

Elevate: So now that you've begun to work to decrease swelling, it's time to elevate the area that was stung or bitten. When you elevate a limb above the heart it helps swelling decrease, and blood more easily return to the heart and built up fluids (edema) in the tissues to clear.

As tough as it may be when bitten by insects like mosquitoes or chiggers try as much as you are able to not scratch the area.

3.) If Needed Find Relief

Often with a bite or sting there can be pain or itching in addition to the swelling that occurs. There are many over the counter remedies that can be either topically applied (Cortisone Cream) or orally ingested (Ibuprofen), but be sure to follow ALL nonprescription medicine precautions when taking them.

Here are some itch and pain relievers you can find in most drugstores:

An oral antihistamine may help relieve itching, redness, and swelling. Don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.

A spray of local anesthetic containing benzocaine may help relieve pain. If your skin reacts to the topical spray, stop using it immediately.

Hydrocortisone 1% cream applied to the skin may help relieve itching and redness. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to.

5. When To Call The Doctor

Call your doctor if any of the following develop or occur during treatment:

  • New symptoms.
  • Symptoms of a skin infection.
  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Symptoms become worse or more frequent.

When it comes to bee stings, sometimes there are various reactions an individual can have that range from mild to more severe. In the instance of a severe reaction call 9-1-1, contact your physician immediately and seek immediate medical care.

A severe allergic reaction is denoted by the following:

  • Skin reactions including hives, itching, flushed or pale skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness

NOTE: If you have had a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting you have a 30 to 60 percent chance of developing anaphylaxis the next time you are stung. You should consult your physician or an allergy specialist about prevention measures to avoid similar complex reactions.

Most of the time a bee or wasp will only sting in self defense, but if you disrupt a hive or encounter a large swarm of bees you can possibly receive multiple stings. If you are stung more than a dozen times, the venom from the stinging insects (like bees or wasps) can accumulate and make you feel ill. Some reactions to the venom include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vertigo
  • Convulsions
  • Fever
  • Dizziness or fainting.

Multiple stings can mean a medical emergency in children or older adults; anyone who has breathing or heart problems.