How to React to Insect Sting Allergies
Summertime means more time spent outdoors and in addition to feeling the sting of sunburns, you may also suffer the sting of insects, whether mosquito bites, wasp bites, bee stings, spider bites, tick bites, or fire ant bites. The severity of the reaction varies from person to person, and while most consider insect bites to be a minor annoyance, they are a life-threatening concern for the two million Americans allergic to their venom. In fact, there are at least 50 deaths each year in the U.S. due to allergic reactions from insect stings. And people who have suffered an allergic reaction have a 60% chance of a similar or worse reaction if stung again. So how should you react to an insect sting? MD Now Urgent Care Centers has some timely tips about bites, diagnosis, and treatment to scratch your itch for information so you can have a good time in the great outdoors.
Is it an Insect Bite, an Infection, or MRSA?
It’s scary when your skin gets suddenly swollen, sore, and red. Many people naturally assume that the source of that soreness is a spider bite, an ant bite, or some sort of insect sting, especially in the summer when they’ve been spending more time outdoors. Although the redness and swelling may be a localized allergic reaction to the insect bite, it could be due to a subsequent skin infection contracted after the bite, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus).
So how can you tell the difference before you see the doctor?
- Allergic reaction to a bite or sting – A normal allergic reaction causes swelling, redness, and minor pain all around the site of the insect sting or bite. A localized allergic reaction results in swelling that goes far beyond the site of the sting or bite and may look alarming, but is really no more serious than a normal reaction.
- Infection from an insect sting or bite – A skin infection can develop after a bite or sting, especially if the area is frequently scratched, because that chafing damages the skin and allows bacteria to get in. The infection first appears as redness and soreness around the bite, but that swelling can spread within days and become serious if not treated.
- MRSA – This is a strain of staph bacteria that can cause a wide range of skin infections. MRSA first appears as a little bump that looks a lot like an ant bite or pimple, so victims often see a doctor thinking that it’s a reaction to some type of insect sting or bite. However, it may actually be a skin infection that could be highly contagious and can only be diagnosed by a medical provider, usually with a wound culture.
Directions for Diagnosis
Once you’ve been stung, pay careful attention to the bite’s appearance and the way you are feeling. If you’re sure that you’re not allergic and only exhibit the subtle swelling and slight discomfort of a normal or localized reaction, then you can treat the problem on your own with topical medications such as Benadryl, without seeking further medical attention.
But if you know you are allergic to insect stings, start showing a worsening allergic reaction, or if you think you may have an infection—especially MRSA—you need to seek immediate medical attention. MD Now can provide you with fast relief for these allergic reactions and skin infections.
Tips for Treatment
There are many simple types of self-treatment for basic normal and localized reactions to insect stings. To soothe any swelling, apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area. To reduce itching and hives, take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine such as Benadryl. To relieve pain, take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen. For minor skin infections, you can use an over-the-counter topical antibiotic. Of course, pregnant women should always consult their doctors before taking any over-the-counter medication.
If you’re stung by a bee but are not allergic, you can treat the trouble yourself. Gently remove the stinger and sac of venom that’s left in the skin within 30 seconds to avoid overexposure to the venom. Be careful not to pull on the stinger or squeeze the sac since this will release more venom into your skin. Finally, wash the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic, since insect stings and bites, such as bee stings, wasp stings, spider bites, and ant bites, could become infected.
If the bite, sting, or wound looks like it’s infected, this may be a sign of a skin infection or MRSA. This is when you need to seek immediate medical attention at the nearest MD Now Urgent Care Center.
Many people who have experienced prior severe allergic reactions wisely keep an epinephrine auto-injector on hand so they can treat themselves if they suffer a sting. You can ask your physician for a prescription. Yet since one dose may not reverse a reaction, it’s best to seek medical attention after a self-injection to ensure that the condition is under control.Be aware that life-threatening allergic reactions could require steroids, intravenous fluids, oxygen, and other medical treatments to stabilize the situation and possibly save your life. That’s why you can’t wait or waste a minute if you have an allergic reaction to an insect sting. You will need medical attention right away, and quick and convenient care is right nearby at MD Now Urgent Care Centers.
Pointers for Prevention
While summer brings an increase in insect exposure, you can reduce your risk of getting stung and avoid the agony of allergy symptoms by taking these preventative precautions:
- Learn to spot and stay away from insect nests. Honeybees nest in beehives. Yellow jackets nest in dirt mounds or old logs on the ground. Hornets and wasps nest in trees, bushes, and on buildings. And fire ants nest in sandy earthen mounds that are usually more visible after rainfalls.
- Wear shoes and socks whenever you’re outdoors.
- Protect yourself from ticks and other insects that are common in wooded areas by wearing insect repellant and covered clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes.
- To reduce your risk of MRSA, maintain excellent hygiene and always cover any skin breaks or wounds with an antiseptic cream and bandage to avoid exposure to the bacteria.
- Avoid wearing lotions, perfumes, scented hygiene products, and brightly colored clothing because they tend to attract insects.
- Always have someone nearby during outdoor activities if you have severe allergies to help you in case you have a reaction.
- Safeguard your home by spraying insect repellent in bedrooms, on plants, in garbage cans, and any areas around your house prone to insects.
If you have severe allergies, you should always wear a medical-alert bracelet and keep an epinephrine self-administration kit within reach to stop severe allergy symptoms. You can also get referred to an allergist to discuss allergy shots, which may be effective at preventing future allergic reactions.