How to Relieve the Pain of Bug Bites

There are lots of ways to discourage the biting and stinging instincts of insects. Wearing DEET-based repellents, lighting citronella candles, and spraying essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus mixed with water all help. So does swearing off perfume and scented body lotions. But inevitably, we get bit or stung. When it happens to you this summer, consider these ways of relieving the itch, swelling, and sting.

1. Itching

It’s summer, so if you’re outdoors there is no escaping at least an occasional mosquito bite and the itch and swelling it brings. Lots of anti-itch creams are available over the counter, and if you’re really bothered you can get a stronger one with a prescription. Antihistamines also help stop the itch, but make sure it’s an oral medication, warns Dr. Leslie Baumann in her Skin Guru blog on Yahoo!Health. Topical antihistamine lotions can actually make things worse by causing an allergic reaction on skin that is already sensitive, she says.

Also, consider taking licorice, sold as an oral supplement and topical lotion and shown in studies to have cortisone-like effects, she says. Plus, it has the added bonus of being a sunburn soother.

Itchy pustules from nasty fire ant bites got you down? Try an anti-itch cream or soak the affected area in ice water, advises.

2. Stinger

Few things can dampen a beautiful summer day than a sting from a bee or wasp. Try to avoid an encounter by not wearing bright colors, which attract bees, and steering clear of flowering fruit trees, plants, and gardens. If you do get stung, advises removing the stinger by:

• Scraping the area from side to side with a straight-edge object like a credit card. (Using tweezers can break the venom sack, spreading venom.)

• Washing the area with soap and water.

• Applying a cold pack for 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off to cut swelling.

Watch the area for signs of infection such as redness and soreness that worsens, accompanied by fever. If infection hits, your physician likely will prescribe an antibiotic.

3. Allergic reaction

If you know you are allergic to insect bites or the stings of bees, wasps, and yellow jackets, you should carry an emergency medical kit available by prescription and containing epinephrine to use against anaphylactic shock, which can cause death. Signs of this severe allergic reaction include: swelling all over the body or different parts including the tongue and throat, which can constrict breathing; wheezing; low blood pressure; abdominal cramps; hives; shock; and unconsciousness.

If you’re with someone who has a reaction to a sting, check his airway and start CPR if necessary. Call 9-1-1. The sooner symptoms occur after exposure to the allergen, the more likely the severity of the reaction will be, health experts say.

4. Toxic reaction

Bites from insects and spiders like the brown recluse spider, fire ants, or puss caterpillar can cause a toxic reaction. Most often symptoms, including nausea or vomiting, fever, weakness, lightheadedness, seizures, and muscle spasms, become less severe or go away within 48 hours. But the severity of the reaction depends on the venom’s toxicity and the amount injected into your body, says A severe reaction can cause heart rhythm problems and shock, and can even be fatal. It’s important that your tetanus immunization be updated with any spider bite.

5. Embedded tick

Wearing light-colored clothing and long sleeves and pants with the legs tucked into socks will help prevent tick bites. However, if you find a tick in your skin remove it with tweezers, gripping it near its head and pulling it straight out. Wash the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, and watch for signs of a rash, which would indicate Lyme disease, tularemia, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, depending on its pattern.

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