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First Aid 

Insect Bites and Stings

Insect bites and stings are common ailments, but they can carry dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease, malaria, or West Nile Virus. Insect bites and stings are typically characterized by a red, swollen, painful, and itchy lump and may involve nausea, vomiting, and headache. Also note that insect bites and stings can cause an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis in certain individuals. If you find a tick on you, remove the tick as soon as possible with a pair of tweezers, wash the area with soap and water, and apply antiseptic cream to the affected area. To treat mild insect bites, follow the steps below. 

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water and evaluate the wound to see if the stinger is still embedded in the skin. If so, remove the stinger by scraping it off with a card or even a fingernail. Do not pinch the stinger or use tweezers to remove it, as it may cause more venom to be released into the skin.

  2. Wash the affected area with soap and water. To prevent infection, do not scratch the area or burst a blister.

  3. Apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a towel for at least ten minutes to prevent further swelling. Elevate the wound if possible.

  4. Monitor vital signs, including responsiveness, breathing, and pulse, and monitor for signs of an allergic reaction, including wheezing or difficulty breathing. 

  5. Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion several times each day and take an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl to reduce itching and swelling. You may even take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen if you feel it is needed. Make sure to read all labels on medications, follow all instructions and precautions, and to not exceed the recommended dosages. 

Seek medical care immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing

  • Swelling of the lips, throat, or eyelids

  • Fast heart rate

  • Faintness or dizziness

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Hives

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Cramping

  • Symptoms don’t improve or worsen after a few days

  • You were stung near your mouth, throat, or eyes

  • The area around the wound becomes red or swollen

  • Fever, swollen glands, or flu-like symptoms

  • The wound begins draining pus or becomes more painful, swollen, and red

  • Seek medical care always if a child is stung by a scorpion

It is important to never give an individual something to eat or drink if he or she is having an allergic reaction.

Insect Bites


Insect Sting



Austin, M., Crawford, R., & Armstrong, V. J. (2014). First aid manual. (G. M. Piazza, Ed.) (5th ed.). DK Publishing.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, February 17). Insect bites and stings: First aid. Mayo Clinic.

National Health Service. (2019, July 8). Insect bites and stings.

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