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Treatment and Tips to Prevent Insect Bites

Treatment and Tips to Prevent Insect Bites

Although most insect bites and stings are harmless, some can be dangerous. This is especially true if you are allergic to insect venom, or if the insect is carrying a disease. Most insect bites and stings can be treated safely at home with topical medications.

Dermatologists at the American Academy of Dermatology recommend following these tips [s].

Insect bites and stings

It is common to be bitten or sting by the following types of insects:

  • Mosquito
  • Fleas
  • Bed bugs
  • Flies
  • Licorice
  • Bees and wasps
  • Spiders
  • Tick
  • Fire

Most insect bites and stings can be treated safely at home with topical medications, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or oral antihistamines to reduce itching.

However, sometimes an insect bite or sting can turn into something dangerous especially if you are bitten or stung by several insects at the same time.

See a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after an insect bite:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Feeling that your throat is closing
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or face
  • Source
  • A fast heartbeat that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • A headache

A red donut-shaped rash that appears after a tick bite. This may be a sign of Lyme disease, which should be treated with antibiotics.

Fever accompanied by a red or black spotty rash that spreads. This could be a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (rickettsial disease), a bacterial infection carried by ticks, which should be treated immediately.

Although most insect bites and stings don't turn out to be as severe or even fatal as rickettsial disease, it's important to pay attention to symptoms.

If you feel tired all the time, have a headache, fever or body aches, or develop a rash after an insect bite, see a board-certified dermatologist right away.

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Tips to prevent and treat insect bites

Although most insect bites are harmless, some can spread dangerous diseases such as Zika virus, dengue fever, Lyme disease and malaria. Especially if you're visiting areas known for insect-borne diseases, it's important to take steps to reduce your risk.

To help prevent insect bites, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

1. Use insect repellent

To protect against mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects, use an insect repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET on your skin and exposed clothing. Always follow the directions on your insect repellent and reapply as directed.

If you also wear sunscreen, apply sunscreen first, let it dry, and then apply insect repellent.

Don't use sunscreen that contains insect repellent, sunscreen should be used liberally and often while insect repellent should be used in moderation.

2. Wear appropriate clothes

If you know you'll be out at night or hiking in a wooded area, wear appropriate clothing to prevent insect bites.

Cover exposed skin as much as possible by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks, and closed shoes instead of sandals.

For added protection, pull your socks up over your pants and tuck your shirt into your pants. You can also pre-treat layers of outer clothing with an insect repellent that contains the active ingredient permethrin.

Follow the instructions carefully and allow the garment to dry for at least two hours before wearing it.

3. Use mosquito nets

If you sleep in a great outdoors, use mosquito nets to protect against mosquitoes. Look for one that has been pre-treated with a pyrethroid insecticide. If it doesn't hit the floor, place it under the mattress for maximum protection.

4. Watch out for disease outbreaks.

Check the CDC Travel Health Notices website and listen for travel warnings and recommendations.

Sometimes, despite one's best efforts, insect bites still occur. Fortunately, most insect bites and stings can be treated safely at home.

To treat insect bites at home, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  • For painful bites, such as a bee sting, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Always follow the directions on the label and use the correct dose.
  • For bites that itch, apply an ice pack or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone. Another option is to take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.
  • To reduce swelling, apply an ice pack to the sting.
  • If you experience any serious symptoms after an insect bite, such as a rash, fever, or body aches, see your doctor or board-certified dermatologist immediately. Be sure to tell the doctor about your last bite so he or she can check you for a transmissible disease.

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