Insect bites and stings: First aid

Most insect bites and stings are meek and can be treated at base. They might cause itch, swelling and stinging that go away in a day or two. Some bites or stings can transmit disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites. Stings from bees, yellow jackets, wasp, hornets and fuel ants might cause a severe allergic reaction ( anaphylaxis ).

For mild reactions

To treat a mild reaction to an insect morsel or sting :

  • Move to a safe area to avoid more bites or stings.
  • Remove any stingers.
  • Gently wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the area of the bite or sting for 10 to 20 minutes. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
  • If the injury is on an arm or leg, raise it.
  • Apply to the affected area calamine lotion, baking soda paste, or 0.5&percnt or 1&percnt hydrocortisone cream. Do this several times a day until your symptoms go away.
  • Take an anti-itch medicine (antihistamine) by mouth to reduce itching. Options include nonprescription cetirizine, fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy, Children’s Allegra Allergy), loratadine (Claritin).
  • Take a nonprescription pain reliever as needed.

Seek medical care if the swelling gets worse, the site shows signs of infection or you do n’t feel good .

When to seek emergency care

Call 911 or your local medical emergency number if a child is stung by a scorpio or if anyone is having a unplayful reaction that suggests anaphylaxis, even if it ‘s just one or two signs or symptoms :

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, face, eyelids or throat
  • Dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Hives
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Take these actions immediately while waiting for checkup serve :

  • Ask whether the injured person is carrying an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others). Ask whether you should help inject the medication. This is usually done by pressing the autoinjector against the thigh and holding it in place for several seconds.
  • Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket.
  • Don’t offer anything to drink.
  • If needed, position the person to prevent choking on vomit.

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  1. AskMayoExpert. Stinging insect allergy. Mayo Clinic; 2021.
  2. Stinging insect allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
  3. Thompson DA. Bee sting. In: Adult Telephone Protocols: Office Version. 4th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2018.
  4. Kermott CA, et al., eds. Emergencies and urgent care. In: Mayo Clinic Guide to Self-Care. 7th ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2017.
  5. Bug bites and bee stings. American College of Emergency Physicians.–safety-tips/bug-bites–bee-stings. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
  6. LoVecchio F. Scorpion envenomation causing neuromuscular toxicity (United States, Mexico, Central America, and Southern Africa). contents/search. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
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