Most reactions to insect bites are mild, causing little more than an annoying itching or stinging sensation. Mild swelling usually disappears within a day or so. But what if you experience something more?
What happens after an insect bite?
You’re at a Miami street fair and you feel a sharp stab above your elbow. You may see the actual stinger or simply see the prick into your skin. Signs and symptoms of an insect bite result from the injection of venom or other substances into your skin. The venom causes pain and sometimes triggers an allergic reaction. The severity of the reaction depends on your sensitivity to the insect venom or substance and whether you’ve been stung or bitten more than once.
Bites from bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants are typically the most troublesome. Bites from mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, ants, scorpions and some spiders also can cause more severe reactions. You may want to visit yourdoctor if you feel nausea or see excessive swelling of the skin.
Ho to deal with mild reactions
- Move to a safe area to avoid more stings.
- Remove the stinger, especially if it’s stuck in your skin. This will prevent the release of more venom. Wash the area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold pack or cloth filled with ice to reduce pain and swelling.
- Try a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), to ease pain from bites or stings.
- Apply a topical cream to ease pain and provide itch relief. Creams containing ingredients such as hydrocortisone, lidocaine or pramoxine may help control pain, suggests Dr. Joukar. Other skin applications as calamine lotion or those containing colloidal oatmeal or baking soda, can help soothe itchy skin.
- Take an antihistamine containing diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others) or chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton, others).
Allergic reactions may include mild nausea and intestinal cramps, diarrhea, or swelling larger than 4 inches (about 10 centimeters) in diameter at the site, bigger than the size of a baseball. See your doctor promptly if you experience any of these signs and symptoms.