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Insect stings and bites can be very painful indeed and are not confined to the balmy days of summer. Bee and wasp stings are particularly dangerous and can cause an allergic reaction to occur. 20% of those stung by a wasp suffer an allergic reaction.
Babies and young children may not be able to report a bite or sting so be aware - they may just suddenly become agitated whilst playing outside. Learn to look out for the signs and act immediately if you suspect a sting or a bite.
Fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, horseflies, gnats, ants and some spiders may bite. A bite will often appear as a red bump or a few clustered together that are itchy, or as a white circle surrounded by slightly reddened skin. Besides local irritation, severe reaction is unlikely from bites. Bites become infected because of scratching. Bites do not contain poison but there are several diseases that are spread by insects biting, including malaria, yellow fever, lyme disease, encephalitus and typhus.
Wasps, bees, hornets and some ants sting. A sting usually takes the form of one or more swollen red bumps. In the centre you can often see a small hole through which the sting penetrated. Stings are accompanied by poisonous venom and it is this that causes the pain. People can suffer extreme allergic reactions to the sting, inducing anaphylactic shock. If you see signs of a severe reaction then consult the emergency services immediately - even a single sting can be fatal to someone suffering an allergy.
If you get stung or bitten, here's what to do:
- Remove the sting if there is one (use tweezers and don't press the sting further in)
- Wash the bite with soap and water and cool the skin with an ice pack
- Use an antihistamine to calm the itch
If the following symptoms occur, consult a doctor or emergency services:
- ...if the person is stung lots of times
- ...if a rash or swelling occurs and gets worse
- ...if the sting is tender or swollen
- ...if there is a headache, dizziness or nausea
- ...if there are pains in the chest, choking or wheezing
- ...if the patient goes into shock call for an ambulance
How to avoid being stung:
- Try not to flap insects away as this can excite them and make them more aggressive
- Use insect repellents
- Keep clear of flowers or things that attract insects
- Don't eat sweet things outside near where insects congegate
- Wear long sleeved clothing
- Keep windows and doors closed to keep insects outside
- Have any nexts you find in your garden or home, professionally removed
- Clean your home thoroughly to avoid bed bug infestations