Allergic Reaction to Insect Bites and Stings
No matter what outdoor activity you plan to do, chances are you won't go far without meeting some form of an insect because they are everywhere. Most of their bites or stings are not dangerous, just nuisances that cause temporary discomfort or pain.
On occasion, they can cause infections or allergic reactions medical treatment because when an insect bites or stings you, it injects venom or other substances that trigger an allergic reaction and the severity of your reaction depends on your sensitivity to the bug venom. Most reactions are mild causing a mild swelling which disappears within a day or two. While other reactions may cause painful joints and swollen glands. You might experience both the immediate and the delayed reactions from the same insect bite or sting. Only a small number of people develop worse reactions that need medical attention.
Here are tips to 'bug proof' yourself and your family against insect bites when going out for a picnic:
- Stay scent-free by not using scented soaps, lotions, shampoos, perfumes and cologne because the smell attracts insects' especially banana-scented toiletries.
- Wear light-colored or neutral smooth-finished clothes. Light colored clothes attract fewer bees than dark clothes and mosquitoes are attracted to blue.
- Wear clean clothing and bathe daily. Sweat angers bees.
- Cover the body as much as possible by wearing long sleeves, pants and socks when possible.
- Clean up picnic tables and other outdoor eating areas because wasps thrive in places where people throw away food.
- Avoid flowering plants and insect nests during the warmer hours of the day because this is when most insects like bees are active.
- Don't make rapid, jerky movements around insect hives or nests because most insects will not attack if left alone but will sting or bite in defense of its itself or nest.
- Watch out for mosquitoes at dawn and twilight.
- Use DEET based insect repellents which should be part of your first aid kit because they're the most effective against mosquitoes or ticks.
- Check bedding before snuggling when camping or during other outdoor activities because scorpions come out at night and may snuggle in with you. They are notorious stowaway so inspect clothes, shoes, baggage before and after heading home.
- Remain still or lie face down on the ground if a stinging insect is flying around, because the face is the most likely place for a bee or wasp to sting. Swinging at an insect provokes it to sting.
- Be aware around wood piles, attics, and cellars because insects like spiders like damp, dark areas the best.
- When bees sting, they release a chemical which attracts other bees and more bees follow so if you're attacked by several stinging insects at the same time, run away from them and go indoors or jump into water.
If you do get bitten or stung, here are some general steps on what to do:
- Move to a safe area to avoid more stings.
- Remove the stinger. If it's visible by carefully scrapping the skin with a straight-edge such as a the back of a knife or a credit card. Do not use tweezers or your fingers because they will squeeze the venom sac.
- Wash the site thoroughly with soap and water then place an ice pack on it for ten minutes repeatedly to reduce pain and swelling.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or baking soda paste to the site several times a day until your symptoms subsides.
- Watch for signs of infection like increasing redness, swelling or pain over the next several days.
- Check yourself and the children for ticks carefully after you've been in or around a wooded area and if you do find a tick, use tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at its head, next to the skin, pull firmly and steadily without crushing it until it let's go. Then, swab the site with alcohol. Save the tick in a jar because the your doctor may want to see it, for easy diagnosis if you develop symptoms of illness after the tick bite. Use soap and water to wash your hands after wards. Don't use petroleum jelly or a lit match to kill and remove a tick.
- If the sting is in the mouth, take a mouthwash of one teaspoonful of baking soda in a glass of water, or a piece of ice to suck on it and get immediate medical attention. This is because stings in the mucus membrane of the mouth can quickly cause severe swelling that may block the airways.