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When Do Insect Bites Need MEDICAL Attention?

Because it's better to be safe than sorry.

Other than the pesky mosquito, different type of insect bites and stings can really drain the fun from your day.

You’re in the comfort of your own home or taking a stroll, when a mosquito, spider, bee, tick, ant or other pesky critter comes along and makes you feel anything other than chill. These various types of insect bites and stings can cause irritation, redness, swelling, itching or pain. Trust us, insect bite rashes and blisters are no stroll in the park.

Luckily, most bug bites aren’t serious cause for concern; symptoms can be managed at home and typically resolve themselves within a few hours, or days. But occasionally bug bites bring about serious infections, allergic reactions and diseases.

Follow these tips from an expert doctor to know when you can brush off the insect bites and stings, and get on with your day – and when to seek medical attention.

How do I treat insect bites?

In the case of a tick, gently remove the tick with tweezers and dispose of it. Grasp the tick as close to he skin as you can, and don’t squash the tick. If it’s a bee sting, remove the stinger with tweezers, or very gently scrape it out with the edge of something firm, like the edge of a credit card.

In both cases, wash the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Then put a cold pack on the area for 10 to 15 minutes to help reduce any redness, swelling or itching. Antihistamines are also helpful to settle these mild allergic reactions.

Avoid scratching or aggravating the bite, to reduce the risk of infection. It can help to dab the sting with Tea-Tree oil, which is anti-bacterial and will soothe the itch. Still tempted to scratch? Cover the sting with a sticking plaster to stop absent-minded scratching.

Spider bites often take longer to heal than other insect bites, and they may affect skin tissues. It’s important to keep the bite clean to reduce the risk of infection.

When should I see the doctor for insect bites?

If the bite has not improved after a few days – or it’s become more red and inflamed, it’s time to reach out for professional help.

Keep a careful eye on spider bites, because spiders inject toxins when they bite. This can affect skin tissues. A spider bite can start out small, but still take weeks (or months) to heal properly.

Look for symptoms like:
• Redness and swelling around the bite – which may, or may not, include pus. Pus can be a sign of infection, in which case you may need antibiotics.
• A spreading rash, with a worsening itch.
• A generalised infection, where you feel unwell. This can include fever, flu-like symptoms or swollen glands.

When does a bite become an emergency?

Some people are allergic to insect bites or bee stigs. Call for help immediately if you see any of these signs of severe allergic reaction:
• Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness of voice
• Severe swelling of the tongue, mouth, eyes, throat and/or face
• A choking sensation, and/or tightness in the chest or throat
• Dizziness, loss of consciousness, a fast heart rate, nausea and/or vomiting

You should also get immediate medical care if you’ve previously experienced severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings. In such situations, medication may be prescribed.

Medical advice provided by Dr. Sin Ru Phua of the International Medical Clinic.

From The Finder, Issue 303 / Text: Jashleen Kaur, August 2020 / Last Updated by Brooke Glassberg

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