Bites and Stings

How dangerous are insect bites?

A variety of diseases are transmitted by insect bites, and even when they are not dangerous, they may be uncomfortable. Some people have allergic skin reactions to bites from mosquitoes, midges and horseflies, causing the skin around the bite to become inflamed and swollen.

When should I seek medical assistance?

Infection spreads in red streaks up the arm or legs through the blood. Once this happens, antibiotics are required urgently. In the meantime, antihistamine tablets should reduce the swelling. In children, calamine lotion can be generously applied, to delay the swelling.

How can I reduce the effects of bites?

  • Avoid scratching bites, as this is how infection is spread. Rubbing gently is a better option, as it leads to less trouble.
  • Take a lukewarm bath or shower.
  • Sleeping tablets may be required if pain interferes with sleep.
  • Take antihistamine tablets, but remember these react with alcohol, so reduce your intake of alcohol.
  • Use creams, which contain steroids or antibiotics, as they are the most effective against bites.
  • Keep fingernails cut in small children, so if they scratch, they will do less damage.

How can I reduce the chances of getting an insect bite?

  • Avoid staying outdoors between dusk and dawn.
  • Wear long sleeves and long trousers to cover your skin, and a hat to cover your head.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing, so that you can see insects in time to shoo them away before they can do any harm.
  • Choose an air-conditioned room where possible.
  • Choose a room located on top floors, as insects do not tend to fly to this height
  • If staying in a holiday home, always check under eaves and where pipes and wires enter the house, for wasps and other stinging insects.
  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Avoid using perfumes.
  • Empty all basins of water after use, as these tend to be ideal breathing ground for insects.
  • If hiking in tall grass, ensure that long pants are tucked into your socks, and check body carefully afterwards to look for ticks, especially in parts of the body covered with hair, and any skin folds.

What if I get a sting?

Stings from bees and wasps are potentially more serious and need to be taken seriously. If a bee sting is left behind in the wound, carefully attempt to remove it, using a tweezers. Hold ice over it afterward to reduce the pain. You can also use an anti-inflammatory medication if the pain or swelling is significant.

If a sting is at the back of the mouth, emergency adrenaline and antihistamines may be required. This is because a sting here can lead to swelling which obstructs the breathing.

Be wary of serious allergy to stings: anaphylactic shock can be very serious and requires emergency treatment. If you have a history of allergic reactions, always carry a bee sting kit with you.

What about other stings and bites?

Avoidance is paramount in preventing snakebites, scorpion stings, sea snakes and jelly fish stings.

Seek prompt medical attention for a bite or scratch from a warm-blooded animal in a country where rabies exists.

All wounds should be seen at a medical centre, as they are prone to infection if not cleaned professionally.

Jellyfish can kill by causing respiratory paralysis and may require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while the victim is being brought to hospital.

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