About Insect Stings: Treatment and Prevention

With most bites and stings, the best treatment is to wait for the itching to go away. Ice cubes, aspirin, antihistamines, and calamine lotion can help. Application of an icepack to prevent the venom from spreading and application of a paste of baking soda and water may also help to relieve welt formation. For people at risk of a major anaphylactic reaction (i.e., anyone who's had a severe allergic reaction in the past), some doctors recommend carrying a syringe filled with epinephrine (EpiPen or AnaKit). This naturally occurring hormone will open breathing tubes closed by anaphylaxis.

People who are allergic to insect stings may also undergo desensitisation. This is only useful for people who have tested positive in the skin-scratch allergy test. By being exposed to small and harmless amounts of venom on a regular basis for a few years, the risk of anaphylaxis from future stings can be cut to almost nothing.

Removing ticks and bee stings usually requires a pair of tweezers. Some specialists say that since the poison sac of a bee sting is still attached after the bee is gone, care should be taken not to squeeze it, as this can force the remaining poison into the wound. Others maintain that it doesn't matter how it is removed. Either way, it should be removed as quickly as possible to minimize the poison dose and the risk of infection.

Ticks are also best removed with tweezers. They should be pulled out straight, as this reduces the chances of head and mouthparts remaining in the wound. This may happen anyway. If it does, pluck out the easily accessible parts but don't fish around in the wound. These parts are unlikely to cause infection and certainly won't transmit Lyme disease. Don't try to kill the tick with heat or any chemical while it's still attached - just pull it out.

To avoid insects and bites, avoid wearing brightly coloured clothing or strong flowery perfumes, carrying overripe fruit, or walking through clover fields. Individuals with allergies to stings should wear identification bracelets. Applying insect repellents may also be useful to avoid insect bites. Wear long-sleeve shirts, pants, and socks for protection.

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