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Treating Insect Bites

Treating Insect Bites

Treating insect bites and stings usually involves managing the symptoms that occur. While some bites can be easily treated at home, others may require medical help.
Rajib Singha
Treating insect bites requires some basic knowledge about the types and symptoms of the bites. Common bites and stings are caused by insects like midges, horseflies, bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, spiders, ants, fleas, lice, bed bugs, mosquitoes, caterpillars, etc. Normally, a bite results in redness and swelling around the bitten area. Most insect bites usually cause severe itching and some are highly painful. Some bites also trigger mild to severe allergic reactions in the body..
Fire Ant Bite

Symptoms: Fire ant got its name from the bite that it delivers on its prey. Its bite literally burns like fire. This is because of an alkaloid compound in its venom. Redness, swelling, itchy pus-filled blisters (pustules), and pain may follow.
Treatment: As soon as you identify a bite from a fire ant, scrub and massage the bitten area with soap and warm water. But this might not be sufficient. So after having washed the injured area you can apply either of the following products.
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Strong hydro-cortisone cream
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Thick paste of salt
  • Crushed aspirin
  • Tea tree oil
  • Hydrogen peroxide solution (apply using cotton balls)
  • Vinegar
  • Aloe gel
  • Arnica Gel
  • Freshly cut side of an onion
  • Ice cube
  • Dish-washing liquid
These products can help soothe the pain and swelling. It is advisable not to touch the pustules. Bites from these insects can cause acute allergic reactions like severe chest pain, sweating, slurred speech, difficulty in breathing, extreme swelling and nausea. In such cases it is important to seek medical help right away.
Caterpillar Sting

Symptoms: Caterpillars are normally found in trees and bushes during summers. Stings are caused by the insect's hair when it comes in contact with the skin. The sting may cause redness, extreme itching, and swelling in several places around the injured area.
Treatment: Avoid scratching the area. The injected hair of the caterpillar may be removed by brushing the stung area with one's hair or by using the edges of a blade. To stop the itching and swelling apply a thick paste of quicklime (Calcium Oxide) to the affected area. Baking soda or ice pack can also be applied to reduce the symptoms.
Mosquito Bite

Symptoms: Mosquitoes are perhaps the most annoying insects of all. They contaminate areas where they find suitable breeding grounds. A mosquito bite usually causes pink or red itchy bumps on the bitten area. In rare cases, a bite from this parasite causes swelling in the throat, wheezing or hives.
Treatment: Applying an antihistamine cream to the bitten area is good enough to reduce the itching and swelling. In case if you haven't got any, then place a cold green tea bag on the affected region. Aloe vera gel, and honey also helps in the treatment.
Bed Bug Bite

Symptoms: Bed bug bite is not dangerous, however, it can be highly irritating and annoying. Symptoms include red, swollen and itchy bumps that are small, flat, or raised.
Treatment:Avoid scratching the bitten part of the body, as the more you scratch the worse the bite becomes. Scratching may also cause the bitten area to become infected. Wash the affected area with warm water and soap. Thereafter, apply anti-itch or anti-inflammatory medication.
Bee Sting

Symptoms: When a bee stings, it injects its stinger into the skin. The sting causes the bitten area to swell up and acute pain.
Treatment: Immediately after the bee has stung, remove the stinger by gently scrapping it with the edge of a card (for example the edge of a credit card) or a blade. If you observe any allergic reactions like shortage of breath, dizziness and any symptom other than pain, then seek medical help. To reduce the pain, over-the-counter pain killers can be taken. Wash the stung area with warm soapy water and thereafter treat the area with ice. Ice helps to stop the flow of the venom and it numbs the pain. You can also apply calamine lotion or lemon solution to the swollen area. Exercise caution while giving aspirin to children or teenagers.
Spider Bite

Symptoms: Spider bites are quite uncommon, and most of them are harmless. But there are two species of these arachnids one must watch out for. They are the black widow, and the brown recluse spider.
When the black widow bites, the victim usually does not feel it, as it does not cause any pain. 30-40 minutes later is when the bite starts causing an agonizing pain. The black widow's venom contains a protein that affects the nervous system of the victim. There would be two faint red spots on the bitten area. The pain may be followed by muscle cramps, weakness, and tremor. A severe reaction from the bite may be indicated by chest pain, breathing problems, faintness, vomiting, high blood pressure or rapid heart rate.
Even a bite from a brown recluse spider does not cause pain right away. Until the symptoms occur the victim may not know that he/she has been bitten by this insect. The bitten area reddens, and this is followed by a blister. Mild to intense pain may occur, accompanied by severe itching. If the bite goes untreated, then after about a week ulcers may occur in the injured site. Severe symptoms may include fever, skin rash, nausea and painful joints.
Treatment: When it comes to treating the bites of these venomous spiders, immediate medical treatment should always be the first choice. In such cases, self-care measures are not helpful enough. So if you suspect that you or someone else has been bitten by a black widow or a brown recluse, call 911 immediately.
Wasp Sting

Symptoms: A sting from a wasp causes extreme pain and high fever in some cases.
Treatment: The treatment comprises bathing the area with vinegar or lemon solution. Calamine lotion helps soothe the bitten area. Applying ice is always beneficial in treating any insect bite. Over the counter antihistamine can be used if swelling persists or increases. A wasp can also inflict a wound around the mouth, lips or throat. In such cases, drink cold water or suck on ice to minimize the pain and swelling.
Yellow Jacket Sting

Symptoms: It is said that out of all the bites and stings of insects, a yellow jacket's is the nastiest. Apart from causing redness, swelling, pain and itching, the bite may also trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction in the body. Apart from meat and other sweet foods, this insect is even attracted towards human sweat.
Treatment: After the insect has stung you, remove the stinger as hastily as possible. Use the edge of a card or any other object that has a thin straight edge. Before applying the stung area with an ice pack, the wound should be cleaned with soap and warm water. To get relief from the pain, aspirin can be taken with warm water. A paste of baking soda and water is effective in treating the sting. Also, a paste made of charcoal and water, or a mud pack (clay soil and water) helps. Call 911 or a nearby medical personnel if any respiratory problems occur.
Some insect bites or stings could be mild and some could result in severe reactions. So the best thing to do after you get bitten is to tend to the wounded area, and look for any abnormal symptoms. If you feel that the symptoms are getting severe with time or the victim's breathing is affected, then get medical help at the earliest.