With summer just around the corner and everyone anxious to spend time outside, keep in mind that stinging insects and ticks will also be out during the warmer months as well. Although some insects just cause a minor nuisance, other stings or bites may require special attention. As they say, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'. To avoid a sting or bite while you are enjoying the outdoors, it is best to wear light colored clothing, avoid heavy perfumes and scented lotions, apply insect or tick repellent (DEET content less than 30% for children), and keep arms and legs covered in tick infested areas. If you do happen to find yourself surrounded by stinging insects, move out the way slowly and calmly. Do not attempt to swat or wave the insects away as quick movements will only excite them and make them more aggressive.
In the event of a sting, remember these steps:
• Move to a safe area, to avoid further contact from stinging insects
• Remove the stinger, if visible, as soon as possible
• Clean the stung area with soap and water
• Apply a cold pack if you notice any pain or swelling
• Apply a topical cream that contains hydrocortisone, lidocaine, or pramoxide to soothe pain and/or itching
In the event of a tick bite, remember these steps:
• Use tweezers to grab the tick by its head and gently pull it out-do not squeeze, pierce, or twist the tick
• Seal the tick in a container in case it needs identification later
• Wash the area with soap and water
• Call your doctor if you are not able to remove the entire tick, if you experience any rash at the site of the bite, or other unusual symptoms
Some people are more sensitive to the venom found in stinging insects. If you are stung and experience chest pain, face or mouth swelling, difficulty swallowing, or trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately. If you have an EpiPen for your insect allergy, administer it immediately and seek medical attention.
Don't let bugs keep you indoors during summer. Remember these tips and you will be able to enjoy the outdoors all summer long.
Lisa F. Derken, MD, specializes in family medicine in Barrington, Illinois. She has 14 years of experience as a physician and received her medical degree from Rush Medical College.