Best care for bug bites: Doctors share treatment tips for minor and serious bites

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Spending time outdoors can sometimes mean dealing with insects and their penchant for bites, including mosquitoes, horseflies, ticks, ants or spiders.

Of course, insect repellents exist. But they are not infallible and not everyone has them on hand at all times.

Most bites are harmless.

However, there are times when special care is needed if the body reacts badly to the insect bite.


Here’s what the experts say to know and do if you’re dealing with minor or serious insect bites.

Most insect bites can be treated at home

Dr. Brian Mangum, associate professor of medicine and epidemiologist at Antigua University of Health Sciences, told Fox News Digital that most insect bites can be treated at home without requiring professional attention. of health.

Mosquitoes usually bite humans and animals to draw blood.

“In general, minor insect bites can cause itching, swelling, and a stinging sensation that will subside and go away within a few days,” Mangum said.

Insect bites causing allergies? HOW TO AVOID DANGEROUS TICK BITES

These symptoms also occur, he said, after an insect bite – as well as bites from certain species of insects (i.e. hornets, fire ants and bees) can cause allergic reactions, especially in those susceptible to anaphylaxis.

Here’s how to treat minor insect bites

It’s important to wash an insect bite site with soap and water, Mangum said.

If bitten, the insect’s stinger should be removed from the site before washing, he said.

After the insect bite has been disinfected, Mangum said he recommends putting ice, a cold damp cloth or a bottle of cold water on the inflamed skin for about 20 minutes to reduce swelling and pain.

Insects can bite almost any skin surface.

Insects can bite almost any skin surface.
(Getty Pictures)

“You can also apply calamine lotion, a paste made from baking soda and water, or 1% hydrocortisone cream, which is available over the counter at your pharmacy,” Mangum says.

“These will also help reduce swelling.”


If itching and irritation persists around the bite site, Mangum said it’s usually okay to take an antihistamine medication in the form of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. .

“Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions,” he warned.

When taking medication, it is always wise to consult a doctor first.

When to report serious insect bites

There are rare instances where medical attention may be needed for an insect bite, medical professionals say.

Usually this is an anaphylactic reaction – a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat and dizziness.

If you

If you “have trouble breathing, there is swelling of your face, including your lips, eyelids, and throat, or if you feel dizzy or faint,” you shouldn’t hesitate to call 911. , said a doctor.

“You should not hesitate to call 911 if you have difficulty breathing, if there is swelling of the face, including lips, eyelids and throat, or if you feel dizzy or pass out,” Mangum told Fox News Digital.

“Hives, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also warning signs of a serious reaction,” he said.

If anaphylaxis is suspected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends evaluating the airway, breathing, and circulation.

CDC: How to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis

    Respiratory: Sensation of closing of the throat, sharp breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing

    Gastrointestinal: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain

    Cardiovascular: dizziness, fainting, abnormally rapid heart rate (tachycardia) and abnormally low blood pressure (hypotension)

    Skin and mucous membranes: hives, itching, swelling of the lips, face and/or throat

    Neurological: Agitation, convulsions, acute change in mental status, and sense of impending doom

The agency also says people with anaphylactic symptoms should be placed in a supine position, which means they lie horizontally with their head and torso up.

People should try to avoid scratching insect bites;  scratching can cause further irritation or infection, doctors say.

People should try to avoid scratching insect bites; scratching can cause further irritation or infection, doctors say.

“Those with a history of allergic reactions to insect stings, known as anaphylaxis, should talk to their doctor about carrying an epinephrine injector, which can be given quickly in an emergency and can save lives,” Mangum said.

Avoid home remedies; monitor infection

While most bug bites and stings can be cured at home with over-the-counter creams and medications, home remedies should be avoided, according to Iza Correll, Physician Associate, Founder and CEO of OVI Healthcare. , a zero-cost hospital. non-profit care. She is based in Kenya.


“Do not apply any home remedy or remedy that a doctor has not recommended,” Correll told Fox News Digital.

“This subject is quite familiar to me, as our children’s hospital is based in Suna Migori, the Kenyan town whose name translates directly to: ‘Here the mosquitoes make you kick yourself,'” Correll said. “He certainly lives up to that name.”

It’s important not to scratch an insect bite “excessively” as this can lead to infection, she added.

A person should contact a health care provider if symptoms worsen or if there are any questions or concerns.

“If the bite does not heal properly or becomes infected, it is crucial to seek medical attention,” Correll warned. “Signs that the infection may be getting worse include fever, swelling, redness or discharge from the wound.”

Regarding the symptoms of mosquito bites, the CDC notes that more severe reactions can occur in these groups: children; adults bitten by a species of mosquito to which they have not been exposed before; and people with immune system disorders.


It also says that people with more severe reactions may experience the following signs: a large area of ​​swelling and redness; mild fever; urticaria; and swollen lymph nodes.

A person should contact a health care provider if symptoms worsen or if there are any questions or concerns.

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