Even though it is 41 degrees out, with cold winds and chilling rain, I have to believe that spring is actually here. There seems to be some evidence of spring since I’m starting to see more kids with insect bites in the emergency department. Most insect bites that I see in the ER are not serious, but very itchy, sometimes large and red. More often than not, parents would like to know what kind of insect has bitten their child which is something I can’t tell. What I can say is that insect bites (unless venomous) are most often not serious and very annoying. So, the big question becomes, how do you treat the itch?
There are some alternative medicine remedies and some over the counter remedies.
ALTERNATIVE REMEDIES FOR INSECT BITES Vinegar is often recommended for wasp stings because the venom is basic. Baking soda has been used to treat bee stings because the venom is acidic.
In these cases, it’s important to note the venom from wasp and bee stings enters the skin and then spreads deep into the tissues, so anything applied to the skin directly is unlikely to have any kind of effect on pain experienced through bee or wasp stings.
Calamine Lotion is sometimes recommended for itchy skin but can actually dry out the skin and increase the amount of itching. Lavender Oil has been touted as a great antiseptic and useful in reducing swelling associated with insect bites. I could not find any real literature to support whether this works. Ice packs applied to an insect bite or bee sting actually do work by reducing pain and swelling. It might be worth while to keep a portable ice pack in your car if your kids have soccer practice or any other outdoor activity.
OVER THE COUNTER REMEDIES FOR INSECT BITES Benadryl which is an antihistamine can be taken by mouth and will reduce itchiness and make it easier to sleep. Best to use this at night and not during school day hours. Remember benadryl applied to the skin may not be very effective. Low potency hydrocortisone cream works very well when applied to individual insect bites to reduce swelling and itchiness. Probably worth keeping this in your home or car. Remember that you shouldn’t apply this to open skin.
Finally, it is important to remember if you know you or a family member are allergic to bee or wasp stings, always travel with an epi pen, and DON’T be afraid to use it!
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