Tuesday, 20th October 2020

This Month's Magazine
Insect bites and stings

Insect bites and stings

Insect bites or stings usually cause no more than a small irritation, but for some this can lead to more serious allergic reactions.- By Sonia Fendlay Director - STM Nummos Life

It important to be aware of the possible risks when travelling to some countries, your GP can give you up-to-date advice about appropriate preventive treatments..

Symptoms of bites and stings
In most people, an insect bite will clear up in a few days. The same is true of insect stings. Sometimes a bite or sting can lead to complications such as an allergic reaction or infection and, to a few people, they will cause a more dangerous allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

Bites and stings can become infected with bacteria and the area around the bite or sting becoming more red and sore, pus may build up. This may make you feel unwell with flulike symptoms and swollen glands and a red line coming from the bite may appear, going towards your armpit or groin. This is caused by inflammation in your lymphatic system and is known as tracking.

Allergic reaction
The allergic reaction is usually localised around the area of the bite or sting and clear up after a few days. However, some people can develop anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock. This is a rare but potentially fatal condition.


Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:
Dizziness, a rapid pulse, a sudden drop in blood pressure, swelling of the airways and throat, making it difficult to breathe, itching and swelling away from the area where the bite or sting is. If you have had a serious allergic reaction before, your GP may prescribe a dose of adrenaline to carry with you. In an emergency, adrenaline should be given within minutes if severe symptoms develop. As a precaution, it’s wise to wear a medical identification bracelet or tag.

Treatment for bites and stings
Urgent medical attention is needed for anyone who: shows signs of having a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), has been stung by several insects at the same time, has been stung in the mouth or throat, where the swelling can interfere with breathing. Cream or ointment containing hydrocortisone can help reduce swelling and inflammation.

Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol can relieve some discomfort. If the lump or itchiness spreads beyond the original site, antihistamine tablets can relieve the symptoms. Prescribed antibiotic lotions
or cream relieve the more serious discomfort.

A course of oral antibiotics may be required for a more severe infection. Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.

How to protect yourself
Try not to scratch insect bites as this can make the symptoms worse. Wash the affected area with soap and water and pat the skin dry, a cold water compress can relieve the pain. Stings are typically painful and cause swelling, but aren’t usually dangerous unless you’re severely allergic to the venom. Remove any sting. You can reduce your risk of insect bites and stings by wearing insect repellent, by sleeping under a suitable net, wearing long sleeves and trousers and keeping foods covered as much as possible.

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