What to do when you get bitten or stung

Outdoor fun during summer comes with a high risk of insect bites and stings. In most cases, these aren’t serious and get better in no time.

In some cases, however, insect bites can cause an allergic reaction. This can either be a mild reaction causing the affected part to swell and become painful, or a severe reaction that could become life-threatening. With a more severe allergic reaction, you could become dizzy, nauseous, have breathing difficulties, find yourself wheezing, have chest pain, cramps, a swollen face or mouth and a blotchy rash that spreads to other parts of the body.

If you’re bitten or stung, try not to excessively scratch the area. This can cause the skin to break allowing bacteria to enter your body. This can cause the area to become infected.

Treat your bites

Bites can cause pain, redness and swelling around the injury. When you’re bitten or stung, an insect injects venom into your body. You’ll have to clean the site of the bite with antibacterial soap and water. Follow up with a damp cloth filled with ice to relieve the pain.

Learn how to identify a bug bite by how it looks and feels. This will help you know whether to treat the bug bite at home or seek immediate medical care.

When you get bitten or stung:

  • Move to a safe area to avoid more bites or stings.
  • Remove the sting or tick if it’s still in the skin.
  • Apply a cold compress or an ice pack to the swelling for at least 10 minutes.
  • Raise or elevate the affected area, to help reduce swelling.
  • Avoid scratching the area!
  • Get over-the-counter medication that can help, like painkillers, creams for itching and antihistamines (medicines often used to relieve allergy symptoms).
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Keep insects away:

  • Avoid insect-heavy areas.
  • Don’t eat foods or wear fragrances that attract bugs.
  • Wear protective clothing and avoid bright coloured clothing.
  • Use insect repellent.
  • Use pesticide products in your garden at home.
  • Understand your own personal risk for having an allergic reaction to a bug bite.
  • If you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, like camping, make sure you use netting when sleeping.
  • Avoid wooded, bushy and grassy areas.
  • If you’re having a picnic, cover your drinks and food.
  • Check water containers; as these could be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Get treatment

A more serious reaction may need oral antihistamines or painkillers. In more severe cases of swelling, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids (to help reduce the swelling and inflammation of airways).

If you’re using an insect repellent and a sunscreen, apply your sunscreen first. Bites are very common, and you’re always at risk if you spend time outdoors. Check whether the area you’re going to visit has insects and take the necessary safety measures. If you have flu-like symptoms days after an insect bite, see your doctor for tests to check if there aren’t any infections or diseases you may have contracted.