6 Tips on How to Deal with Insect Bites

Most of us have experienced an insect bite at some point in our lives. We all know the discomfort of having a big red splotch on our arms or legs, the ones that our moms told us not to scratch no matter how itchy. While most bites are generally not dangerous, there are times when they cause infections and severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. As such, it would be wise to know how to deal with bites from various insects, including bed bugs (surot), ants, ticks, and the ever-present mosquitoes.

The symptoms of a typical insect bite are redness, itching, swelling, and some mild pain. However, when your symptoms are combined with mild nausea, intestinal cramps, diarrhea, shock, breathing problems, and swelling in other parts of your body, you may be dealing with an allergic reaction. If you have allergies, it’s highly recommended that you have a stock of allergy medicines, your epinephrine auto-injector, and your local emergency service’s number at all times. This way, you don’t have to search frantically for “gamot sa anaphylaxis” when you’re already suffering from it.

With that in mind, let’s get into some tips to help you and your family deal with those pesky yet inevitable bug bites and stings.

Clean the Bite Area

One of the first things you should do when faced with an insect bite is to clean the affected area with soap and water. To relieve itching, you can also opt to dab the bite region with alcohol.

After cleaning the bite site, it’s best to listen to mom’s advice and just don’t scratch it. Mosquito bites, for example, cause your body’s immune system to release histamine. Histamine causes swelling and itchiness, so continuing to scratch the affected area will only trigger histamine release and make it itchier. Over-scratching can also damage the outer layer of your skin, making it more vulnerable to infection.

Use Ice or a Cold Compress

Cold therapy is a common way to provide short-term relief for muscle pain and itchiness. This is because cold temperatures numb the affected area and reduce swelling, inflammation, and bleeding. You can apply an ice pack or a cold compress directly over the affected area for up to 5 minutes for instant relief. It’s best to keep it within that time limit, though, as the cold may hurt your skin when left for too long.

Apply Anti-Itch Medication

Apart from cold therapy, you can also use medications, ointments, topical creams, and lotions to relieve swelling and itchiness. The Department of Health (DOH) recommends using calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. You may also opt to take antihistamines with diphenhydramine, but consult your doctor first before taking these medications to be sure there will be no adverse effects.

Consider Treatment Options with Essential Oils

Essential oils are distilled plant extracts that sometimes have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help in treating insect bites. Mint and lavender essential oils, in particular, are known to be soothing on your skin. If you don’t have an anti-itch cream with you, you can use lip balms infused with essential oils as an alternative to dab onto your skin.

Know How to Conduct Emergency Treatments

As mentioned earlier, some insect bites and stings can be fatal, especially if you have an existing allergy. When you start to notice an all-encompassing warmth and redness around the bite area along with pain, pus, and swelling, you need to call your doctor immediately. Typically, it’s the stings from bees and wasps that cause these reactions. If the stinger is still attached to the skin, gently remove it using objects with flat edges such as a credit card. Don’t use tweezers since it squeezes the affected area and causes the venom to spread. Afterwards, wash the area with soap and water.

If the person is having an allergic reaction, encourage them to remain calm. Lay them down and keep their legs elevated and still. If they have an epinephrine auto-injector, retrieve it and follow the instructions for application. If or when they need to vomit, turn them on their side to keep them from choking. If they start to lose consciousness, perform CPR until emergency services arrive. It’s also ideal to avoid giving the patient food or drinks until the medics arrive.

Consider Undergoing Allergy Testing

If you believe that you don’t have allergies but experienced severe reactions due to bites or stings, you may want to talk to your doctor about allergy testing. This way, your doctor will be able to give you a more accurate diagnosis along with recommendations for the medicines and apparatuses that you need. One such apparatus is the epinephrine auto-injector, which you must carry with you at all times—especially when you need to go to areas where insects may thrive (i.e., parks and nature trails).

Protect Yourself and Ask for Medical Help If Needed

As we have previously established, insect bites are not usually life-threatening. Still, it’s best to monitor how your body reacts to bites and stings to determine the best courses of action. Although most bug bites heal within a week or so, there may be times when the symptoms spread or get worse. Some people even experience flu-like symptoms along with other signs of an allergic reaction. By then, you need to take a trip to the clinic to manage your condition as soon as possible.

Of course, prevention is better than cure, especially if you have a history of allergies. Be mindful of safety precautions such as applying insect repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts, and generally avoiding insect-infested areas such as tall grasses and stagnant water.

The truth is, insect bites are bound to happen. But by knowing the best treatment and prevention practices, you can stop these bothersome bugs from endangering your health—and constantly bugging you and your family.