Stings: Prevention Is Best Medicine

With the arrival of spring and warm weather, children and insects return to the great outdoors. Invariably, some of those insects will bite or sting some of those children.

Bites from insects tend to leave small, red, hive-like bumps on the skin. Some will have a tiny indentation or blisters in the middle where the bite actually occurred.

Stings from insects tend to be painful for one to two hours and then itchy.

Redness around the sting often will last for three days and swelling for seven days.

In rare cases (about 0.4% of bee stings in children), anaphylaxis can occur. Symptoms include swelling of the eyes, lips and tongue; throat or chest tightness; wheezing or respiratory distress; dizziness; or fainting.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, so 911 should be called in this case.

Stings come most commonly from honey bees. Other stinging insects include bumblebees, certain ants and wasps.

Honeybee stingers are often left in the skin after a sting. They should be removed by scraping them off laterally with a card of some sort.

Bites and stings can be treated with regular washing with soap and water. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help give pain relief. Cold compresses may also help.

Itching and redness will often respond to over-the-counter antihistamines such as diphenhydramine. Over-the-counter corticosteroid cream may also help.

Seek medical attention for large or persistent (more than three days) redness or swelling of the bite or sting. Stings inside the mouth should also be professionally evaluated.

Most insect bites are from mosquitoes. Other biting insects include horseflies, deerflies, fleas, bedbugs, gnats, certain ants and certain beetles.

For a tick (not technically an insect) embedded in the skin, grasp its little head with tweezers and pull it firmly and steadily outward.

Lyme disease is spread by the deer tick, which usually must be attached to a person for 24-48 hours before the disease is transmitted.

Even then, only about 1.4% of people bitten by a deer tick in an area that is high risk for Lyme disease go on to contract it.

Prevention is easier than treatment of bites or stings. Tuck in clothing and wear shoes and socks outdoors.

Wear gloves for yard work. Insect repellents can be helpful – many contain 10-30% DEET, while others may contain picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil.

Empty any items outside that contain standing water. Regularly treat pets, furniture and carpets for fleas when applicable.