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Insect Bites And Stings

Definition

An insect bite refers to a puncture wound in the skin caused by an insect when it stings or bites a human.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

Insects are found everywhere, even in cities. The areas of highest risk are those with shrubbery or trees. Cluttered or unclean areas also pose a risk.
Insects that are responsible for numerous visits to emergency departments in North America include the following:
  • ants
  • bees
  • fleas
  • hornets
  • lice
  • wasps
  • yellow jackets

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the injury?

Insects are the largest population of animals in the world. It is impossible to avoid them completely, but here are some helpful measures:
  • Avoid contact with insect nests and other places where they live.
  • Avoid scented lotions and perfumes that may attract insects.
  • Use insect repellents appropriately.
  • Wear clothing with long sleeves and pant legs.

Diagnosed

How is the injury recognized?

Diagnosis of an insect bite begins with a medical history and physical exam. Most of the time, diagnosis is clear because the person sees the insect when it stings. However, the red, raised area associated with a sting or a bite can appear much later without the person noticing the insect. These bites are much more difficult to diagnose since the type of insect is unknown. However, the size and location of the bite will give an indication of possible sources of the bite.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the injury?

If the sting appears to have been made by a honeybee, try to remove the sting sac. This can be scraped out of the wound with a fingernail or plastic card. Care should be taken not to pinch the sting sac with fingers or tweezers. This will cause more venom to be released.
Other steps that may be taken after a bite or sting are as follows:
  • washing the wound with soap and lukewarm water
  • covering the site with a clean, dry cloth
  • removing rings and other constricting items
  • keeping the person still
  • watching for serious problems with breathing
  • remaining with the person until medical help arrives
Also, it is important that the person have an up-to-date tetanus shot (given as the DTaP vaccine). This vaccination should be given every 10 years, or more frequently if there is a danger of a wound becoming infected.
Insect bites or stings can cause anaphylaxis in some people. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that causes breathing difficulties and possible cardiac arrest. If a person appears to be having trouble breathing, call for medical help immediately.
In the meantime, keep the person's airway open, and do not let the individual lie down. If he or she carries injectable medicine for treatment of anaphylaxis, it should be given right away. If the person stops breathing, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, at once.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Medicines used to treat insect bites or stings may cause drowsiness and other minor side effects.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the injury?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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