How to Prevent and Treat Insect Stings
With summer just around the corner, many of us are spending more time outside enjoying the warmer temperatures, even if it's just in our backyards. However, being outdoors can increase your risk for insect stings, so it's important to take preventative measures to protect yourself and your family.
5 insects that sting
Stinging insects carry venom with them and have stingers or body parts that allow them to sting prey and potential threats, including humans. Some insects can even cause allergic reactions. They include:
- Hornets (including the "murder hornet")
- Yellow jackets
- Fire ants
Allergic reactions to insect stings
Allergic reactions to insect stings are usually at the site of the sting, and present with symptoms such as redness, swelling, pain and itching. Generally, the reaction may last only a few hours, although some may last longer.
Some may even experience anaphylaxis, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. These types of reactions require immediate medical attention, and are marked by symptoms such as:
- Itching and hives over most of the body
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- Difficulty breathing and tightness in the chest
- Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
- Stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea
- Rapid fall in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
Preventing insect stings
To prevent insect stings, consider following these tips:
- Keep food covered when eating outdoors.
- Be careful with open drink bottles or cans, as insects can fly or crawl inside them.
- Avoid using perfumes, hair products and deodorants.
- Avoid wearing bright, patterned clothing.
- Avoid going barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes when outdoors.
- When gardening, keep an eye out for insect nests in trees, shrubs and flower beds.
- Be careful near spaces where insects are commonly found, such as swimming pools, woodpiles, under eaves of houses and trash containers.
- Be careful when operating outdoor equipment such as lawnmowers and leaf blowers, as these may provoke stinging insects.
Treatment for stings
For mild reactions:
- Move inside to avoid additional stings.
- Remove the stinger by scraping it with a fingernail or firm object. Do not squeeze the stinger, which may force the venom into the body.
- Clean the affected area with soap and water.
- To reduce pain and swelling, apply a cool compress such as washcloth moistened with cold water or filled with ice.
- Apply 0.5 or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to the site of the sting several times daily until your symptoms go away.
- Take an antihistamine such as Benadryl to reduce itching.
Start Your Urgent Care Virtual Visit with Ochsner Anywhere Care here.
Usually, the signs and symptoms of a bite or sting will go away in a day or two. If you're concerned — even if your reaction is minor — consult your doctor. (Consider a virtual visit for ease and convenience.)
Suggestions for treatment for severe allergic reactions include:
- Call 911 if the stung person experiences symptoms of anaphylaxis (difficult breathing; rapid heart rate; swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat).
- Ask the person if he or she is carrying an EpiPen, and if you should inject it. This is usually done by pressing the autoinjector against the person's thigh and holding it in place for several seconds.
- Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket. Don't give him or her anything to drink.
- Start CPR if the person shows no signs of circulation (like breathing, coughing or movement).