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Beware of Insect Bites And Stings

September 6, 2008
By KENNETH COBB, For The Inter-Mountain

During the late summer and early autumn months, it is difficult to ignore all the annoying insects. While most are just simply a nuisance, others are responsible for painful bites and stings that can lead to severe allergy reactions. Anyone who spends time outdoors can't help being exposed to these potential hazards.

The most common are the stinging type insects such as bees, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets. Knowing how to treat stings after they occur is important. After being stung, one should move to a safe area to avoid more stings.

People who have known allergic reactions to stinging insects should have an emergency epinephrine kit in their possession at all times. They should also wear a Medic Alert tag to let others know their condition.

If the stinger is still in the skin, it needs removed. Scraping the affected area with a plastic credit card or knife is quite effective. Do not try to remove the stinger with tweezers, pliers, fingers or anything similar. Squeezing the stinger may release more venom. If possible, apply a cold pack filled with ice. This will help reduce the pain.

Then apply hydrocortisone cream (0.5 to 1 percent), calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to the sting three to four times a day until the discomfort subsides. Take an antihistamine containing Benadryl or chlortrimeton.

Ants and mosquitoes are biting type insects that are not as hazardous as stinging insects, but they can be annoying. Always avoid large anthills because biting ants (especially fire ants) get aggressive when they feel threatened.

Allergic reactions to stings may include fever, hives and painful joints, mild nausea, diarrhea and intestinal cramps. If the swelled area gets larger than 2 inches in diameter, a person should see a doctor as soon as possible.

For severe reactions such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or throat, faintness, dizziness and rapid heartbeat, dial 911 and try to get to an emergency room quickly.

If a person is carrying an auto injector kit of epinephrine, it should be administered as directed by the instructions. This is usually done by holding the auto injector against the thigh and holding it in place for several seconds. After injection, massage the injection site for at least 15 seconds to enhance absorption. Next, have the person take an antihistamine if they can do so without choking. Turn the victim on their side to prevent choking if there is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth. Last, be ready to administer CPR if there are no signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement).

Of all the stinging type insects, yellow jackets are the one that I fear the most. They grow throughout the summer and are most aggressive as the summer turns to fall. Leaves or dirt often camouflages their nests, and they can be disturbed with ease. One yellow jacket sting can be a painful experience and is capable of causing complications. If a person has been stung 10 or more times or inside the mouth, they should call 911 immediately. Yellow jackets are attracted to bright and dark colored clothing. They are also attracted to scents such as aftershaves and perfumes. Do not ever swat at a yellow jacket that may come near because it is capable of calling reinforcements from a nearly hive. Try to remain quiet until it flies away on its own; if it does not, try to get away from it slowly.

Spiders are not insects, but their bites can cause complications. The black widow and the brown recluse are the most venomous spiders in the Eastern United States. Neither one of these spiders is aggressive, but they will bite when disturbed. If a person gets a bite from one of these spiders, they should try to get to an emergency room as soon as possible.

Other biting critters to watch out for are chiggers and ticks. Like spiders, they are not insects, but they can cause problems. Chigger bites can cause scrub typhus, and we all know tick bites can cause Lyme disease.

In order to prevent or reduce the probability of getting bitten or stung, people need to follow some simple guidelines. Avoid wearing bright or dark colored clothing, and strong smelling aftershaves, deodorants and perfumes. Stay away from their nests because they do have a tendency to attack when people get too close. Keep sweet smelling foods and drinks tightly covered if you know that stinging insects are nearby.

All people should apply an ample amount of insect repellant to their exposed skin before venturing outdoors this time of year. There are several brands on the market today, and they are inexpensive. Apply repellant to the arms, face and neck. These areas are the most vulnerable to insect attack.



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