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Insect bites and stings: First aid/Conditions/Prevention

 Insect bites and stings

Most insect bites and stings cause mild reactions such as redness, itching, and stinging. Rarely, insect bites and stings can result in more severe reactions, such as from a bee, wasp, hornet, fire ant, or scorpion. Some insects also carry diseases such as West Nile virus.

First aid


For mild reactions

If you get a mild reaction to an insect bite or sting, here are some tips to take care of it:

  • Stay away from the area where the wasp or bee is located so you do not get bitten or stung.
  • If needed, remove the stinger.
  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cool compress. Wet a cloth and place it on the injured area. This will reduce pain and swelling. If the injury is on an arm or leg, raise it up.
  • Apply a cream or paste made of hydrocortisone and calamine to the bite or sting several times a day until your symptoms go away.
  • Take an antihistamine to reduce the itching.

If you are reacting to a bite or sting, the symptoms usually go away within a day or two. If you are concerned — even if your reaction is minor — you should call your doctor.

When to seek emergency care

If you see someone who has been injured, call 911 or your local emergency number. If the person experiences any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately:Chest pain, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeats are all signs of a heart attack.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat
  • Feeling dizzy, faint, or confused.
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hives
  • Nausea, cramps, or vomiting can be symptoms of food poisoning.
  • A scorpion sting can be dangerous for a child.

While you are waiting for medical help, take these steps:

  • If you are allergic to something, ask the person if he or she is carrying an EpiPen, a medication that can be used to treat an allergic reaction.
  • If the person says they need to use an autoinjector, ask if you should help inject the medication. This is usually done by pressing the autoinjector against the person's thigh and holding it in place for a few seconds.
  • Take off tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket. Do not give them anything to drink.
  • If the person is vomiting, make sure they are positioned so they cannot choke.
  • If the person does not show any signs of circulation, such as breathing or movement, begin CPR.
Insect bites and stings: First aid/Conditions/Prevention

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