You’ve just been bitten by an insect. How do you know if it’s serious? Should you see a doctor?
The Emergency Room staff at Sandhills Regional Medical Center warns of the dangers of bee stings and when it’s an emergency.
Most insect stings, which can occur anywhere on the body, cause only minor discomfort, but some can be painful and frightening.
The two greatest risks from most insect stings are allergic reaction (which occasionally could be fatal in some individuals) and infection (more common and less serious), according to the hospital’s ER Extra staff.
Bees, wasps, yellow jackets and hornets belong to a class of insects called Hymenoptera. Over 95 percent of stings are from honey bees or yellow jackets. Fire ants, usually found in southern states, can sting multiple times, and the sites are more likely to become infected.
What are the symptoms of an insect sting? The following are the most common symptoms of insect stings. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Local skin reactions at the site or surrounding the sting, including the following: pain; swelling; redness; itching, warmth; small amounts of bleeding or drainage; and hives.
- Generalized symptoms that indicate a more serious and possibly life-threatening allergic reaction, including the following: coughing; tickling in the throat; tightness in the throat or chest; breathing problems or wheezing; nausea or vomiting; dizziness or fainting; sweating; anxiety; and itching and rash elsewhere on the body, remote from the site of the sting.
Treatment for stings: Large, local reactions usually do not lead to generalized reactions. However, they can be life threatening if the sting occurs in the mouth, nose or throat area. This is due to swelling that can close off the airway.
Treatment for local skin reactions may include the following: Remove the stinger by gently scraping across the site with a blunt-edged object, such as a credit card or dull knife; (Do not try to pull it out, as this may release more venom.); wash the area well with soap and water; apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to help reduce swelling and pain (10 minutes on and 10 minutes off for 30 to 60 minutes).
If the sting occurs on an arm or leg, elevate the limb to help reduce swelling.
To help reduce the itching, consider the following: apply a paste of baking soda and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes; apply a paste of non-seasoned meat tenderizer and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes; apply a wet tea bag and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes; use an over-the-counter product made to use on insect stings; apply an antihistamine or corticosteroid cream or calamine lotion; give acetaminophen for pain; or give an over-the-counter antihistamine, if approved by your physician.
Observe the individual closely for the next hour for any signs of allergic reaction that would warrant emergency medical treatment.
ER Extra is a revolutionary new emergency room experience at Sandhills Regional Medical Center that spends more time focusing on your care and less time with typical hospital ER hassles. Current ER wait times are available on our website, www.sandhillsregional.com, or by texting your zip code to ER Time (378463).