There’s a good chance that you might get bitten by an insect this summer, especially because our warm winter has led to more bugs in the air and on the ground. If you do get bitten, there are steps you should take to reduce pain, swelling, and itching and to avoid a secondary infection.
If you have ever experienced a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting, talk to your doctor about carrying a prescription “EpiPen” with you at all times during the season when they are most active. If you are stung and develop a serious reaction seek medical attention immediately. Otherwise, remove the stinger as soon as you can by scraping the stinger out of your skin using the edge of a credit card or your finger nail. Once it is removed, wash the area with soap and water. A few home remedies may decrease the pain, swelling, and itching. You might make a paste out of Adolph’s meat tenderizer and keep it on the bee sting for 20 minutes. Another home remedy is to apply apple cider vinegar to the site to draw out the venom and stop the swelling. Try rubbing aloe vera on the sting or placing a slice of onion on the site for a few minutes to try to reduce the pain and itching. Never scratch. This could lead to a skin infection.
Sometimes the best thing you can do to avoid bug bites is to stay inside. To protect yourself from mosquitoes, for example, avoid the outdoors at dawn and dusk when they are most active. If you do have to be outdoors, wear light-colored clothing, pants and long-sleeved shirts. Also, use an insect repellent. If you do get bit, and the itching is bothersome, try using an over-the-counter antihistamine cream or ointment. Mosquitoes are carriers of the West Nile virus, so if you come down with flu-like symptoms after being bitten, seek medical attention immediately. This is a serious disease and people have died from the West Nile virus.
Ticks, which can spread Lyme disease, vary in size. A deer tick, for example, is as small as the head of a straight pin. A dog tick, however, is as large as the top of a pencil eraser. To protect yourself from ticks, follow some of the basic rules mentioned earlier – cover up with clothing but also make sure to check your body for them when you come in from the outdoors. To remove a tick use tweezers by grasping the tick as close to the tick’s head. Pull it straight out using a steady motion. Once the tick is removed keep the tick in a jar for one to two weeks and be on the lookout for signs of Lyme disease. Symptoms usually appear two to four weeks after being bitten. Some people develop a bull’s eye rash where they were bitten along with a fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and neck stiffness. Starting treatment as soon as possible can prevent serious complications.
In doubt about whether you have a bug bite or a staph infection or even worse a methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, a strain of a staph bacteria affecting your skin? A bug bite will generally appear a little better the following day or unchanged. But a staph infection/MRSA infection will become larger, red, hot, and tender. A pus-filled center, that will need to be drained by a doctor, may be visible to the eye. In general, though, pay attention to bug bites. If the site does not appear to improve or gets worse, you need to seek medical treatment.
Have a great and healthy summer!
Courtesy of Kaytie Olshefski, RNC, BS, nursing coordinator of Adult Senior Communities in Monroe Township, on behalf of Saint Peter’s University Hospital. To find a doctor affiliated with Saint Peter’s, visit www.SaintPetersHCS.com/findaphysician/