Seek immediate medical attention if you show signs of anaphylactic shock after being stung or bitten by an insect. Be sure to seek immediate medical help if you experience:
- abnormal breathing
- tightness in your throat or chest
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- tingly or itchy skin
- difficulty breathing
- heart palpitations
For a spider bite or scorpion sting, see a doctor if you develop:
- a blue or purple area around the bite that is surrounded by a white ring and a large outer red ring
- muscle spasms
- abdominal pain
- joint pain
- loss of appetite
If you are allergic to bee stings, keep an allergy kit on hand. If you do get stung, you can stop a potentially dangerous allergic reaction within minutes by injecting a dose of epinephrine prescribed by your doctor. Epinephrine can be self-administered with a syringe or an EpiPen -- a spring-loaded device that automatically triggers the injection when it is pressed against the skin. Be sure to carry the kit with you when you do any outdoor activities.
Treat bites and stings right away to prevent infection. If you have been stung by a bee, remove the stinger. To do this, scrape the venom sac away from your skin with a flick of the finger, or a blade of some sort. Wash the area with soap and water a few times a day until your skin has completely healed. It is important to keep the area clean to prevent a secondary infection from occurring.
To relieve symptoms, use an ice pack or run the wound under cold water to numb it and tame the swelling. You may want to try making a paste with baking soda and water to soothe the area. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve swelling and reduce pain.
Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.
If you are highly allergic to insect stings, you may want to consider allergy shots. A series of injections can desensitize you to the effects of insect stings by helping your immune system become resistant. Allergen immunotherapy involves injecting a small amount of the particular substance you are allergic to and gradually increasingly the dose so that you develop a tolerance to it. Given on a regular basis (once a week to begin with; then every month or so) over the course of three to five years, allergy shots are 55% effective in preventing future reactions. If reactions do occur while undergoing such therapy, they are usually mild and not life-threatening.
Most bites and stings do not require emergency medical treatment, and heal within a few days. Certain bites may take as long as 10 days to heal, especially if the site becomes infected. Keeping the area clean and dry will help prevent a secondary infection from developing.
If you think you have been bitten by a tick, see your doctor. A course of antibiotics may be required for as long as a month. The prognosis will depend on what type of infection the tick may have been carrying and how soon the patient received treatment.
Patients who have severe reactions to insect stings or bites should visit an allergist-immunologist for evaluation and treatment.
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