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Insect Bites and Stings and Spider Bites (cont.)

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Allergies: Should I Take Shots for Insect Sting Allergies?

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Common bites and stings

Most bites and stings will heal on their own without a visit to a doctor. There are several things you can do to relieve pain and itching and prevent infection from a bite or sting.

Insect or spider bites or stings or contact with caterpillars

  • Move away from the stinging or biting insect. Bees will alert other bees, making them more likely to sting.
  • Remain as calm and quiet as possible. Movement increases the spread of venom in the bloodstream.
  • If you have been stung by a bee and the stinger is still in the skin, remove the stinger as quickly as possible.
  • If you have been stung on the arm or leg, lower the limb at the time of the sting to slow the spread of venom. Hours later, if swelling is present, you can elevate the limb to help reduce swelling.
  • After contact with a puss caterpillarClick here to see an illustration., remove broken-off spines by placing cellophane tape or commercial facial peel over the area of the contact and pulling it off.
  • If you have been stung by a scorpion, see a doctor right away. There is a now a medicine (antidote) for scorpion stings.

Relieve pain, itching, and swelling

  • Apply an ice pack to a bite or sting for 15 to 20 minutes once an hour for the first 6 hours. When not using ice, keep a cool, wet cloth on the bite or sting for up to 6 hours. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack. Do not apply ice for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.
  • Elevate the area of the bite or sting to decrease swelling.
  • Try a nonprescription medicine for the relief of itching, redness, and swelling. Be sure to follow the nonprescription medicine precautions.
    • An antihistamine taken by mouth, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, may help relieve itching, redness, and swelling. Don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
    • A spray of local anesthetic containing benzocaine, such as Solarcaine, may help relieve pain. If your skin reacts to the spray, stop using it.
    • Hydrocortisone 1% cream or calamine lotion applied to the skin may help relieve itching and redness. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
  • After the first 6 hours, if swelling is not present, try applying warmth to the site for comfort.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Consider a home remedy, such as putting witch hazel or underarm deodorant on the bite. Home remedies haven't been proven scientifically, but usually they won't hurt you if you want to try them.

Prevent a skin infection

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • After washing, wipe the area with rubbing alcohol or first-aid antiseptic.
  • Trim fingernails to prevent scratching, which can lead to infection.
  • Do not break any blisters that develop.
  • If a bite becomes irritated, apply an antibiotic ointment, such as bacitracin or polymyxin B sulfate, and cover it with an adhesive bandage. The ointment will keep the bite from sticking to the bandage. Note: Stop using the ointment if the skin under the bandage begins to itch or a rash develops. The ointment may be causing a skin reaction.

For home treatment of lice, scabies, tick bites, bedbugs, or kissing bugs, see the topics Lice, Scabies, Tick Bites, Bedbugs, and Kissing Bugs.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

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