Insect stings often cause minor swelling, redness, pain, and itching. Most bites and stings will heal on their own without a visit to a doctor. There are several things you can do to relieve pain and itching and prevent infection from a bite or sting.
After a sting
After you are stung, try to move away from the stinging insect. Bees will alert other bees, making them more likely to sting. Remain as calm and quiet as possible. Movement will increase the spread of venom in your bloodstream.
If the stinger is still in your skin, remove it within 30 seconds of the sting. Delay in removing the stinger is likely to increase the amount of venom you receive. You can:
- Flick the stinger out with your finger.
- Gently scrape it out with something like a butter knife or credit card.
- Gently place cellophane tape over the stinger and surrounding skin. Pull the tape off the skin to remove the stinger.
Avoid pinching the stinger out with your fingers or tweezers because this can release more venom into your skin.
If you have been stung on the arm or leg, lower the limb at the time of the sting to slow the spread of venom. Hours later, if swelling is present, you can elevate the limb to help reduce swelling.
Relieving pain, itching, and swelling
Apply an ice pack to a bite or sting for 15 to 20 minutes once an hour for the first 6 hours. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack, and press firmly against all the curves of the affected area. Do not apply ice for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.
When not using ice, keep a cool, wet cloth on the bite or sting for up to 6 hours.
After the first 6 hours, if swelling is not present, try applying warmth to the site for comfort.
Try a nonprescription medicine for the relief of itching, redness, and swelling.
- An antihistamine taken by mouth, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, may help relieve itching, redness, and swelling. Do not give antihistamines to children younger than 1 year old unless your doctor tells you to.
- A spray of local anesthetic containing benzocaine, such as Solarcaine, may help relieve pain. If your skin reacts to the spray, stop using it.
- Hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion applied to the skin may help relieve itching and redness. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or ******l area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
When using nonprescription medications, be sure to follow all labels and instructions.
- Carefully read and follow all label directions on the medicine bottle and box.
- Take, but do not exceed, the maximum recommended doses.
- Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
- If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before taking it.
- If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, call your doctor before taking any medicine.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.