Most bug bites end up being more annoying than serious

Labored breathing, swelling signs of trouble

Special to the Herald-LeaderOctober 7, 2013 

Fall is the season for outdoor activities such as football games, tailgating, hay rides and barbecues. Any time you are outdoors you risk contact with insects that can bite or sting.

Simple ways to prevent bug bites and/or bee stings include avoiding wooded areas when possible. Do not wear scented lotion or perfume. Wear long sleeves and long pants when you can, but avoid bright colors, which can attract bees. Tuck pants into socks or shoes. Use insect repellent if nonchemical methods are ineffective.

Most bug bites and bee stings are not serious but might cause temporary discomfort and pain. You might notice a small whelp or bump, and the area might sting or itch. While most bites are not serious, people should know the signs of an infection or symptoms of an allergic reaction and when to seek medical attention.

An insect bite essentially is an injection of venom or toxin under your skin. Most reactions are mild and cause only an annoying itching or stinging sensation with mild redness and swelling. If you have mild symptoms, you should wash the area with soap and water, and remove the stinger, if present, by scraping the back of a credit card or another straight-edged object across it. Do not use tweezers; this might release more toxins into the skin. Place ice wrapped in a washcloth on the site for 10 minutes, remove the ice for 10 minutes, then repeat the process.

You might try a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to ease pain and inflammation. If necessary, you may take an antihistamine such as Benadryl or Claritin, and apply an over-the-counter steroid cream that will help reduce itching, inflammation and swelling.

See your primary care provider if the area does not get better within a few days, or if the area gets bigger, has colored drainage, or you develop a fever with a rash and/or flulike symptoms. These might be signs of an infection or complication.

Call for help or dial 911 if someone has been bitten or stung and is experiencing trouble breathing; swelling of the lips, mouth or throat; hives; sweating, and confusion. Try to keep the individual calm and loosen his or her clothing. If the individual is vomiting, turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking, and remain with the person until medical help arrives.

Cassie Stanley is a nurse practitioner at the Baptist Express Care clinic at Wal-Mart in Winchester.

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