Sunday, 13 July 2014

Dealing with insect bites this summer

The dreaded mosquito in action

By Feriha Özdemir Ibrahim

What is an insect sting?

An insect bite and sting is painful wound that is caused by an insect’s stinger being thrust into skin. The sting or bite causes an immediate reaction in the skin, with most people experiencing redness and swelling in the affected area, which usually lasts for a few days. Common biting insects include flies and fleas, while stinging insects include bumblebees, honeybees, hornets and wasps.

There are three main reactions to stings:

§         Redness
§         Itchiness
§         Pain (of varying degree)

It is important to seek medical assistance if the sting becomes infected, or if there is an allergic reaction or anaphylactic (severe swelling which affects air flow and breathing).

Treating bites and stings

§         Wash the area and pat dry. Remove the sting if it is visible
§         Apply a local anesthetic: using a soothing cream containing hydrocortisone or antihistamine can reduce redness and swelling. Calamine lotion can also be used to reduce the itching.
§         Antihistamine tablets can be taken to reduce the swelling, redness and itching if the bite/sting area is large.
§         If the bite/sting is serious, the patient should seek medical help immediately. This is especially important if an anaphylactic reaction occurs.

Preventing bites and stings

It is important to take some precautions especially while on holiday to prevent yourself getting bitten:
1.      Use insect repellants containing DEET
2.      Avoid marshy areas
3.      Wear long-sleeved tops and trousers to prevent bites in the evening.

If you do get bitten and feel unwell (develop a temperature, breathing difficulties etc.) it is important to seek medical help immediately.

Talk to your local pharmacist

Your local pharmacist can help you to buy appropriate antihistamine creams and lotions, including antihistamine tablets. They can also help you to purchase painkillers and insect repellants, including general holiday essentials.

T-VINE Wellbeing writer Feriha Özdemir Ibrahim is a fully qualified pharmacist who helps run her two family chemists, Woodside Pharmacy, in Leytonstone, East London. If you have any questions for her, please email:

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