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Tips to Prevent Insect Bites, Stings from Bugging You

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Posted: 4/29/2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s that time of year again for baseball games, golf outings, camping trips, bike rides, picnics in the park and afternoons at the swimming pool. But, let’s not forget about those pesky insects. While most insects are simply a nuisance, others can cause anything from a painful bite to a severe allergic reaction, including death.

“We typically see bee, wasp, hornet and yellow jacket stings during the warmer months,” said Dr. Richard Nelson, director of emergency medicine at The Ohio State University Medical Center. “When a person develops symptoms other than localized pain soon after a bite or sting, severe allergic reaction is a major concern and he or she needs to be treated immediately.”

People have a common misperception about spider bites, says Nelson. “A lot of people think they’ve been bitten by a spider when they actually have a skin abscess or infection. Unless the person sees the spider bite them and can bring it in with them to the emergency department, it’s hard to confirm. Actually, spider bites are very rare.”

Anyone who spends even a brief amount of time outdoors is exposed to the potential of being stung. In order to reduce the likelihood of being stung:

· Avoid wearing bright or flowered clothes.

· Don’t wear heavy perfumes or scented lotions.

· Control odors at picnics, garbage areas, etc.

· Check before drinking from cups, bottles and cans. Yellow jackets and other stinging insects are attracted to sweet drinks.

Bee, wasp, hornet and yellow jacket stings are usually only dangerous to a person who is allergic to the sting or who has been stung multiple times. Insects will bite at any time of the day, but most bites occur in the evening, so extra precautions should be taken after sunset.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, about 880,910 injuries caused by insect bites and stings were treated in hospital emergency departments across the nation in 2002.

Nelson offers the following treatment tips for stings and bites:

· If you’re stung, stay calm!

· If the stinger is still present, either brush it off with a flat stick, or pull it out with tweezers, grasping the part nearest the skin.

· Apply ice to the area.

· Itching can be controlled with over-the-counter antihistamines. Itching and swelling around the sting site that develops over a few hours is not unusual and should subside in a few days.

· If you develop symptoms such as difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, mouth, or tongue, or generalized itching or hives, call 911 immediately or go to the emergency room. It’s not safe to drive yourself to the emergency room! If you call 911, treatment, if necessary, can be started more quickly.

Symptoms, such as a rash, that occur on parts of the body other than around the bite or sting indicate a generalized allergic reaction.

Nelson says that a patient having an allergic reaction gets high priority in the emergency department. “They will need to receive shots specific to their allergic reaction. Severe reactions typically occur within 15 to 20 minutes after the bite or sting.

“Although the vast majority of bee and yellow jacket stings can be treated without seeing a physician, it’s good to err on the side of caution,” said Nelson. “When in doubt, come in and get checked out.”

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Sherri L. Kirk
Medical Center Communications

Emergency Services; OSU Medical Center; University Hospital