Insect bites and stings are quite common and typically the only trigger for minor irritation among sensitive individuals. Nevertheless, some bites and stings can be painful and can instigate a serious allergic reaction. Various insects deliver a bite to create a hole in the skin in order to feed. Most insects sting as a way to defend themselves by injecting venom into the skin.
Indications of insect bites and stings
Once an insect bites, saliva is released that can trigger the skin surrounding the bite site to turn swollen, red and itchy. The venom from a sting can also cause an itchy, swollen, red mark on the skin. This is usually sore, but harmless in most cases. The affected area stays sore and itchy for a few days.
Take note that the severity of the bites and stings tends to vary depending on the type of insect and the sensitivity level of the individual. In rare circumstances, some can end up with a serious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to insect bites and stings that require immediate medical care.
When to seek care
A doctor should be consulted if an individual has been bitten or stung and there is significant swelling and blistering or if there is pus which indicates an infection. Call for emergency assistance if the individual experiences any of these symptoms after sustaining a bite or sting.
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feeling faint or dizziness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Anxiety, confusion or agitation
Management of insect bites and stings
Most insect bites and stings can be managed by cleansing the area using water and soap and applying a cold compress over the area to minimize the swelling.
As much as possible, avoid scratching the affected area to avoid infection. If the individual is in pain or the area is swollen, use pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
In case of a serious reaction, the doctor will prescribe other medications or refer the individual to an allergist for immunotherapy.
How to prevent insect bites and stings
An individual is more likely to be stung or bitten if working outdoors or regularly engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking or camping.
It is important to use an appropriate insect repellant as well as keeping the skin properly covered while outdoors in order to avoid insect bites and stings. Do not panic in case hornets, wasps or bees are encountered. Steadily back away and do not wave your arms around or swat them.
What to do when travelling abroad?
Always bear in mind that there is a risk for acquiring certain diseases such as malaria from insect bites in some countries such as in Asia, Africa and South America. With this in mind, it is vital to be well aware of the potential risks before travelling to these areas and get any medications or vaccinations.