Insect and spider bites often cause minor
swelling, redness, pain, and itching. These mild reactions are common and may
last from a few hours to a few days. Home treatment is often all that is needed
to relieve the symptoms of a mild reaction to
common stinging or biting insects and spiders.
Some people have more severe reactions to bites or stings. Babies and
children may be more affected by bites or stings than adults.
Examples of problems that are more serious include:
A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Severe allergic reactions are not common
but can be life-threatening and require emergency care. Signs or symptoms may
may occur if the circulatory system cannot get enough blood to the vital
Coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, or feeling of
fullness in the mouth or throat.
Swelling of the lips, tongue,
ears, eyelids, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and mucous membranes
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Common bites and stings
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
Insect or spider bites or stings or contact with caterpillars
Move away from the stinging or biting insect.
Bees will alert other bees, making them more likely to
Remain as calm and quiet as possible. Movement increases the
spread of venom in the bloodstream.
If you have been stung by a bee
and the stinger is still in the skin,
remove the stinger as quickly as
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.
contact with a
puss caterpillar, remove broken-off spines by placing cellophane tape or
commercial facial peel over the area of the contact and pulling it off.
If you have been stung by a scorpion, see a doctor right away. There is a now a medicine (antidote) for scorpion stings.
Relieve pain, itching, and swelling
ice pack to a bite or sting for 15 to 20 minutes once an hour for the first
6 hours. When not using ice, keep a cool, wet cloth on the bite or sting for up
to 6 hours. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack. 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.
Elevate the area of the bite or sting
to decrease swelling.
antihistamine taken by mouth, such as Benadryl or
Chlor-Trimeton, may help relieve itching, redness, and swelling. Don't give
antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
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 1% 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
vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
After the first 6 hours, if swelling is not
present, try applying warmth to the site for comfort.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow
these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Carefully read and follow all
directions on the medicine bottle and box.
home remedy, such as putting witch hazel or underarm deodorant on the bite. Home remedies haven't been proven
scientifically, but usually they won't hurt you if you want to try them.
Prevent a skin infection
Wash the area with soap and
After washing, wipe the area with rubbing alcohol or
Trim fingernails to prevent scratching, which
can lead to infection.
Do not break any blisters that
If a bite becomes irritated, apply an antibiotic ointment,
such as bacitracin or polymyxin B sulfate, and cover it with an adhesive
bandage. The ointment will keep the bite from sticking to the bandage.
Note: Stop using the ointment if the skin under the
bandage begins to itch or a rash develops. The ointment may be causing a skin
Take the following measures to help
prevent bites and stings.
insect repellent before going into the woods or other
areas where you may come in contact with insects. Use insect repellents
according to directions, particularly when applying repellent to
Do not put repellent on small children's hands, since
they often put their hands in their mouths.
Wash the insect
repellent off with soap and water after returning indoors.
Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothes that
cover your body, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Button long
sleeves and tuck long pants inside boots. Avoid loose clothes that might
entangle a biting or stinging insect. Avoid bright colors. Avoid going
barefooted or wearing sandals outdoors. Some outdoor stores may sell clothing
treated with a repellant.
Avoid wearing perfumed lotions,
aftershave, or scented hair products during the warm months.
positive steps to manage your surroundings.
Always close car windows.
put your picnic out until you are ready to eat, and repack picnic food as soon
as you are finished serving.
Avoid flowering plants.
you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to
insect bites or stings, have someone else mow lawns or clip hedges.
Avoid swatting at insects or flailing your arms
around them. Instead, retreat slowly and calmly when insects act
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.