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First aid for insect bites and stings

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:47 pm
Insect bites and stings can range in seriousness from mild irritations, to severe allergic reactions. Minor bites and stings may cause any of the following symptoms: pain, burning, redness, rash, swelling, itching, or numbness in the area around the wound. Severe allergic reactions may also include muscle or stomach cramps; nausea; vomiting; difficulty breathing; swelling and closing of the throat; fever; pale, sweaty skin; drowsiness; hives; coughing; anxiety; dizziness; or blurry vision. If you experience any severe symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Persons with a history of allergic reactions should keep antihistamine tablets or a prepared injection kit close by in case of an emergency. For treatment of minor stings, remove the stinger by scraping the area with a knife edge or fingernail. Don't squeeze it, as that presses more venom into the skin. Wash the area with antibacterial soap, apply ice compresses, and coat it with calamine lotion, hydrocortisone (high-droe-KORE-tih-zone) cream, or antihistamine lotion to reduce symptoms. Spider and snake bites are more complicated, and should be treated by medical personnel. With any sting or bite, it's important to wash the area immediately with an antibacterial soap, cover it, and avoid scratching. For more information on insect bites and stings, consult a physician.
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