Medical Topics

Insect Bites and Stings

What To Do About Stings, Insect Bites..
The first, and most obvious Thing to do, is to avoid them. If you can't avoid them, then you should treat them. If you can't avoid them, and don't treat them, they could have serious consequences.

Some precautions you can take to avoid being bitten or stung:
  1. Don't use strong perfumes or heavily scented soaps.
  2. Limit your input of certain fruits such as bananas and oranges. Insects are attracted to perfumes and the aroma of some fruits when excreted through the skin. You must be particularly careful if you are one of those persons who attracts more than your share of the insect world while your companions seem to go unscathed.
  3. Cover up. Wear long sleeves, pants, socks, etc., particularly in the evening when the mosquitoes and other insects are most active, and also in clover fields or wooded areas. Take extra precautions to protect infants by using fine mesh coverings, such as mosquito netting, over baby carriages.
  4. Apply insect repellent before you go out and remember to re-apply it as its effectiveness declines, particularly if you are exercising or otherwise enjoying an active pastime such as swimming or tennis - anything that causes you to break out in a sweat.


The most commonly used ingredient in repellents for personal application is DEET (diethyl toluene), which exudes a vapor around the skin that many insects find unpleasant. Repellents containing DEET must be kept out of the reach of children. Do not apply them if your skin is broken, such as cuts or scrapes, or around the eyes. Too extensive or aggressive applications of this type of repellent on children has been known to cause symptoms such as agitation and tremors accompanied by a slurring of speech and loss of balance. But repellents containing less than 50% concentrations of toluene are considered safe in normal applications. For adults, use your discretion.

Smudge pots and candles burning citronella oil, a substance from various citronella grasses cultivated in many tropical regions, is somewhat effective for use in open areas. The citronella, as well as the smoke generated as a by-product, is a deterrent to mosquitoes and black flies for such gatherings as outdoor barbecues, but is most effective when use in conjunction with personal application of DEET-based repellents.

How To Treat Bites And Stings:

Despite all precautions, it is inevitable that blood-seeking insects such as mosquitoes, black flies, ticks and spiders, as well as wasps, hornets and bees will penetrate the defenses on occasion. So what do you do then?

In the absence of severe symptoms most bites and stings can be treated with normal first aid procedures. However, it is advisable to ensure that, as a victim, you are current on tetanus immunizations.

In general, washing the site with soap and lukewarm water, applying cold compresses and, after, soothing lotions such a calamine may treat bites and stings. It is advisable to remove rings and other constricting items because the affected area may swell.

If the sting is from a honeybee, remove the stinger Do not use tweezers! Pinching the stinger will cause more venom to be released. Observe the site of the bite or sting over the next 48 hours for signs of infection such as increasing redness, swelling and/or pain.

Most bites and stings do not require emergency medical care. But possible Complications to insect bites and stings induce allergic reaction, infection, disease, toxic reaction and shock. Allergic reaction may include anaphylaxis, an acute systemic type of allergic reaction. This type of reaction is sudden and severe. Muscle contractions cause constriction of the airways. This, in turn, causes difficulty in breathing and may result in abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized itching and palpitations. Anaphylaxis is a life threatening condition requiring immediate emergency treatment. Do not delay. Go to the emergency department of the nearest hospital or call 911 if any symptoms of anaphylaxis occur. Persons with a history of allergy to insect bites, bee stings, etc., may be advised to carry an emergency kit of epinephrine as an injectable or an inhaler.

For tick bites, do not try to pull out a tick that is embedded in the skin, because often the head is left under the skin, the appropriate treatment is to suffocate the tick by covering it with petroleum jelly, mineral oil or medicated ointment. If the tick does not release at once, wait 20 minutes and then pull it out, carefully, with tweezers, making sure none of the parts are left behind. If all the parts of the tick cannot be removed, get medical help. Otherwise, watch carefully for the next week or two for signs of Lyme disease, an inflammatory disease characterized by skin changes, expansion of the red lesion to several inches over the course of a week or so, joint inflammation and flu-like symptoms. If such symptoms are present, seek medical help.

For any bite or sting, if after following all the appropriate treatments, the condition does not require attention from a doctor, your pharmacist can help you select the most suitable non-prescription medication to relieve the condition.

Back to Top

Home | About Us | Guest Tour | Medical Topics | Go Shopping
Discussion Group | Useful Links | Prescriptions