Every single person, unless they live in an Arctic climate, has experienced the annoying redness and itch of an insect bite and/or sting. Those who suffer from allergies, however, will suffer an actual allergic reaction that increases the level of redness and itch felt on the site of the sting. Other symptoms could include swelling or in severe cases, anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock can be extremely dangerous for a person to experience and it is highly recommended that someone suffering from this seek medical treatment right away, as it does have the potential to turn fatal due to the swelling of the throat, tongue, and nose. Nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and dizziness can also occur.
There are approximately five species of insects that will cause an allergic reaction:
- Fire ants
- Paper wasps
While other people can experience a mild or moderate allergic reaction to other insects, such as mosquitos; it is these five insects that will cause the most severe reactions throughout the body.
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to an insect sting include but is not limited to:
- Pain at the site of the bite or sting
- Redness at the site of the bite or sting
- Itching at the site of the bite or sting and surrounding areas
- Rashes or hives that itch and cause the skin to dry out at the site of the bite or sting
First aid for adults
First aid can prevent a reaction to insect bites and stings from growing in intensity and encourage faster healing. First aid for adults can differ slightly from children, as medications meant for adults have higher dosages than those for a child. Some antibiotic or natural first aid options can be overwhelming for a child’s developing system, so information can be key.
- If there is a stinger left behind in the skin from the insect, remove it by gently scraping a fingernail (or flat object such as a credit card) back and forth to loosen it from the skin.
- Repeat this until the stinger is removed, as squeezing it with fingernails or tweezers can release more venom into the bloodstream.
- Once the stinger is removed, wash the wound with soap and water to cleanse the area.
- Use a cold compress to reduce swelling and cover with a clean breathable bandage.
- If pain does occur, an over-the-counter painkiller can help ease any discomfort and relax the muscles to prevent the venom from spreading.
- If itching and/or redness does occur, use an anti-itch cream such as hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion
- Itching and redness can also be reduced by using a homemade paste of baking soda and water or using powdered oatmeal in a lukewarm bath (if the bites and/or stings are numerous over the body).
- Repeat these steps until the symptoms are disappeared and the wound is visibly healing.
In the case of a severe reaction, gently remove the stinger and call emergency personnel. Consult a doctor in the local emergency department and keep note of symptoms along with the type of insect bite it is.
First aid for children
If a child gets stung or bitten by an insect, it is important to use the following steps as a guideline for first aid. If the child is known for allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock, administer first aid or an EPI-Pen, then proceed to the nearest emergency department.
- If there is a stinger embedded in the skin, keep the child from scratching or squeezing it and instead use a fingernail or flat object in a scraping motion to remove the stinger.
- Wash the area with antibiotic soap and lukewarm water to prevent any infection from developing.
- Pat, not rub, dry and use a thin layer of children’s antihistamine cream or calamine lotion over the site and surrounding area.
- Place a cold compress wrapped in a clean cloth if swelling or pain is occurring.
- Use a child’s painkiller if pain is occurring.
- Wind a clean breathable bandage over the wound to prevent dirt from entering it.
- Repeat these steps until the wound is closed over and symptoms have disappeared, which should be two to three days in the case of a non-allergic reaction or mild allergic reaction one.
To combat an insect bite or sting and the accompany reaction, whether it is an allergic or generic one, prevention is key. Simple tasks can be undertaken to reduce the impact that insects have on your lifestyle.
Prevention during outdoor activities
- While partaking in an outdoor adventure such as hiking, kayaking or trips to a remote cottage; wear long pants and sleeves were possible to deter insects from perching on your skin.
- Avoid heavy perfumes and fragrances while outdoors, as it has been proven that strong scents act as a honing beacon for insects.
- Use anti-insect methods while outdoors during a garden party or barbeque such as citronella candles, insect repellent and coil smoke rings.
- Keep food and drinks covered when not in use as the sweetness and the flavor attracts insects.
- Use protective equipment such as gloves and a hat while gardening, as insects which include flies, can be stirred up by handling dirt and mud.
Prevention of allergic reactions
- Use antihistamines once an insect bite or sting occurs and keep them on hand for future occurrences.
- Avoid scratching the insect sting or bite to prevent the venom from spreading.
Living with an allergy doesn’t have to be a hindrance to a busy lifestyle because with some prevention techniques and the awareness to recognize when there is a hazardous environment; life can go on as per normal.
Ensure that the proper first aid is administered as soon as possible once an insect bite or sting occurs and keep on hand a first aid kit that contains anti-itch cream, alcohol swabs for disinfecting, and gauze bandages that allow the site to breathe without being exposed to the elements. Test antihistamines to determine what brand or ingredients work the best for an allergic reaction and invest in a non-drowsy formula to avoid work or home lives being disrupted. If an allergic reaction is severe, consult with the local emergency department immediately, especially if the person suffering from the reaction shows signs of anaphylactic shock.