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.
It is important to
remove the stinger as quickly as possible after a sting. Even a delay of a
second or two in removing the stinger is likely to increase the amount of venom
you receive. In less than 20 seconds after a sting, 90% of the venom is
injected into your body.
To quickly remove the stinger:
Flick the stinger out with your
Scrape it out with something that is immediately available,
like a stiff piece of paper, butter knife, or credit card. Don't waste time
trying to find something special.
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
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.
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
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 vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless
your doctor tells you to.
When using nonprescription medicines, 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.
Don't 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
Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.