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Treating Insect Stings and Bites At Home

Pesky pests can ruin outdoor fun leaving you itchy and sore. Stinging and biting insects can be harmless to most but can be a serious issue to others. “It is important to know how to properly treat the reaction your body has to insects based on your symptoms,” advises St. Claire HealthCare’s Director of Pharmacy Services, Stephanie Justice, PharmD, BCPS. “Not only can it provide relief from itching or burning pain, but it could even save your life.”

Types of Reactions:

Normal Reaction – Pain, swelling, redness near the bite/sting site.

Large Local Reaction – Swelling beyond the bite/sting site. This may look alarming but large local reactions are not serious. The swelling will go down within a few days.

Allergic Reaction

Mild – Pain, redness, pimple-like spots, mild to moderate swelling, warmth, itching.

Severe – Also called an anaphylactic reaction. Difficulty breathing; swelling of the lips, eyes or throat; dizziness or confusion; rapid heart rate or hives. You should call 911/seek medical care if any of these symptoms are present.

How to Treat Insect Bites & Stings:

  1. Move to a safe area to avoid more bites/stings. If you happen to disturb a nest or hive, leave the area immediately. Some insects can release pheromones that encourage others of their species to bite or sting.
  2. Remove stinger(s). Use your fingernail, a knife edge, or credit card to scrape against the skin. Do not squeeze or pull.
  3. Wash the site with soap and water
  4. Apply a cool compress – cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice (helps reduce pain and swelling); if injury is to an arm or leg elevate it
  5. Use hydrocortisone or an antihistamine (e.g., diphenhydramine, loratadine, etc.) to help with itching and swelling
  6. Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief as needed
  7. For those who have had an allergic reaction in the past and have an epi pen, it should be carried and used when needed. You should still see your healthcare provider even if you use your epi pen for immediate treatment.
  8. Call 911/seek emergency medical care quickly if severe allergic reaction symptoms occur.

To download these instructions, click here.

How to Avoid Bites and Stings:

  • When spending time outdoors, wear protective, light colored clothing; preferably long sleeves and pants.
  • Use insect repellant.
  • Stay away from concentrated areas such as gardens or garbage bins.
  • Do not swat at stinging insects.
  • Cover food and beverage containers while not in use.
  • Avoid using perfume, cologne or scented lotions when spending time outdoors. Strong scents can attract or provoke insects.

Be Prepared

“If bites and stings are a concern for you and your family, keep over the counter treatments like hydrocortisone, pain relievers and antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or loratadine at home. For those who suffer from severe allergic reactions, I highly recommend they talk to their healthcare provider about epinephrine auto-injectors, which are a prescription-only treatments,” says Stephanie Justice, PharmD, BCPS.

Did you know St. Claire HealthCare has two retail pharmacy locations? www.st-claire.org/locations