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Seasonal Health > Insect bites > Insect bites or stings: treatment
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Insect bites or stings: treatment

Mosquito bites

Symptoms of a mosquito bite are usually mild and transient. Use a topical anesthetic or lotion to relieve the immediate discomfort and, if local irritation occurs, topical steroids can be applied to the skin to reduce the itching, redness and swelling. Oral antihistamines can also be effective in reducing the symptoms of mosquito bites. The key thing is not to scratch. Scratching prolongs the inflammatory reaction.

Black fly bites

Black fly bites are extremely painful, and the injection of venom into the skin causes intense itching, local swelling and soreness. Treat the bite as you would a mosquito bite. Severe complications (swelling) are possible in allergic individuals and, rarely, death from toxemia or anaphylactic shock from black fly bites have occurred.

Bee stings

If a bee stings you it will leave its stinger in the wound and go away to die, having left part of its nervous system behind. The stinger is a self-contained unit containing a barb to pierce the skin, a venom sac and a set of muscles to push the barb and venom deeper into your skin. The stinger will continue to pump venom into your bloodstream for 20 minutes after it has been left behind. If stung by a bee, act quickly, follow these steps!

  1. Look for a raised reddening area on the body where the victim has been stung. For multiple stings look first at the head, neck and torso.
  2. Once you have located the sting area look carefully for a small, dark object like a splinter, this is the stinger. There may be a sac-like structure at the visible end of the stinger. If you can, cut off the sac prior to removing the stinger with tweezers. If you squeeze the sac in an attempt just to pull out the stinger, you may cause more venom to be injected.
  3. If the victim is allergic to bee stings ask if anyone around you has a bee sting kit, if not, call 9-1-1 immediately. You may be saving a life. If the victim is carrying an injectible adrenalin syringe help them give the injection.
  4. If the victim does not know if they are allergic or says no, observe them carefully for the signs of anaphylaxis (see above). If these appear, call 9-1-1 immediately. They should be transported to a physician for assessment as soon as possible.
  5. Observe multiple sting victims carefully for signs of distress.
  6. Wash the sting area with soap and water or use alcohol wipes.
  7. Apply cold compresses - put some ice cubes in a washcloth or apply a cloth soaked in cold water for immediate pain relief.
  8. To relieve itching apply topical preparations such as calamine lotion or preparations containing antihistamines or topical steroids.
  9. Use a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), if needed.

Wasp or hornet stings

Wasps and hornets do not leave their stingers behind are capable of delivering multiple stings. Follow steps 3 through 9 above to treat these injuries. If you are stung many times, you may feel pain, or varying degrees of sickness. The effect of a wasp or hornet sting is greater in children. A healthy adult would have to be stung many times to be in risk of death. If you are stung repeatedly, see your doctor, he or she will want to monitor you for a week or so to be certain that no secondary health problems arise.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team 


*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.


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