Dr Jurgita Cekanaviciene explains how to deal with stings and bites this summer.
Insect bites and stings are very common during the summer months. Most will be minor and disappear naturally but they can cause some discomfort, including blisters, irritation and inflammation in the short term.
If you are stung or bitten there a few things you can do to ease the discomfort. Wash the bite with soap and water, cover the area with a cold towel to reduce swelling and try to avoid scratching the bite. If the symptoms are very severe or don’t disappear on their own you might need to visit your local pharmacy or the healthcare centre. Excessive swelling and blistering or pus may indicate a more severe bite or sting or secondary infection.
In some cases, a person might suffer from a more severe reaction called an anaphylactic shock. However, this is very rare and affects just 3 in 100 people*. Symptoms can include hives, itching or swelling on a part of the body that hasn’t been stung, a tight chest, breathing difficulties, a hoarse voice and a swollen tongue. If you think you may be anaphylactic your doctor can arrange a test to confirm your allergy.
If you or someone you know does suffer from a severe reaction or anaphylactic shock, prompt action and treatment is essential. The affected person needs to be injected with adrenaline to counteract the effects of the allergy. Once the injection has been dispensed to the person affected, follow up advice may be necessary and is available by calling NHS direct on 0845 4647 or calling 999 to talk to one of the medical staff.
If you are at risk from suffering from anaphylactic shock, make sure that you wear an identity bracelet or necklace with details of your allergy and the treatment required. Inform family, friends and work colleagues of your allergy and any treatment required. Always carry two adrenaline injections with you that are in date and make sure that somebody knows where they are. The healthcare centre or allergy specialist can prescribe the injections and teach you how to use them.
Here’s some advice on how to help prevent insect bites and stings:
- If you come across a wasp, hornet or bee, move away slowly without panicking. Don’t wave your arms around or swat at the insect. This may cause it to become aggravated and increase the risk of it stinging you.
- Use insect repellent if you’re planning to spend time outdoors. Check the label to see if it is suitable for your age and skin type. There are also several natural remedies available on the market.
- Never disturb an insect’s nest. If you find a nest in your garden or house, call a professional exterminator to have it removed safely. Fill small cracks and holes to prevent wasps from getting into your house in the first place.
- Keep food and drink covered if you’re eating outside. Insects are especially attracted to sweet foods. Make sure that wasps and bees don’t get into open drink bottles or cans. You don’t want a nasty surprise when you come to take a sip of your drink.
- Use the air conditioning in your car if you have it, rather than driving with open windows .
- Try to keep the doors and windows closed at home or keep windows and doors covered with a light fabric or insect screens to prevent insects from getting inside your home.
- Avoid using scented sun cream and perfume if you’re planning to be outside. Insects are often attracted to these smells, particularly at night.
- Avoid walking barefoot on the grass. Make sure that children also have adequate footwear when they’re playing outside.
- Cover up with a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers at night. Insects such as mosquitoes can be more active at dusk, night or when the air is humid.
For more information and advice about allergies, including allergy testing, visit www.nhs.uk.