When to seek treatment for insect bites? Tips from HMC allergy expert

 18 Jul 2017 - 2:10

When to seek treatment for insect bites? Tips from HMC allergy expert
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to insect bites can include rash

The Peninsula

Not all insect bites require immediate medical treatment but Dr. Mehdi Adeli, Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Allergy and Immunology Awareness Program Lead and Senior Consultant in Allergy and Immunology, says it’s important to seek advice from an allergist if there is a suspected allergy or an individual has experienced a severe reaction in the past.

“Most reactions to insect bites and stings are mild, causing little more than redness, itching, or minor swelling. Bites or stings from insects such as bees, ants, and wasps rarely cause severe reactions, but it is important to be aware that allergic or toxic reactions can occur and should be reported to one’s doctor or allergist. Patients who wish to see an allergist at HMC can obtain a referral from their primary healthcare physician,” explained Dr. Adeli.

Examples of severe allergic or toxic reactions include shock, coughing or trouble breathing, swelling of the lips, tongue, eyelids, hands and feet, lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps and hives.

He noted that if an insect sting occurs, recommended first-aid includes:
•    Removing the stinger from the skin. If a stinger is left in the skin, scrape it off with a flat object. Do not use tweezers or your fingertips as that could deposit more venom.
•    Washing the area with soap and water.
•    Applying a cool compress using a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice. This helps reduce pain and swelling. If the injury is on the arm or leg, elevate the affected body part.
•    Removing any tight-fitting jewelry, such as rings or bracelets, from the area of the sting, in case swelling occurs.

Dr. Adeli noted that it is also important to treat symptoms of insect stings. “For most people, bee or other insect stings simply hurt or itch or cause a lump where the sting occurred. This is called a local reaction. Local reactions normally respond well to a cold compress, which helps relieve the itch and oral antihistamines to relieve other symptoms. Calamine lotion can also provide additional relief. For pain, an acetaminophen or ibuprofen are recommended.

However, he noted that it is wise to watch for symptoms of a severe or toxic reaction, especially in children. Symptoms to watch for include:
•    Hives or generalized itching in locations beyond the site of the sting.
•    Throat or tongue swelling.
•    Difficulty breathing.
•    Dizziness.
•    Severe headache.
•    Stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea.
              
“While severe allergic reactions are not common, they can be life-threating and there is a need for immediate treatment with an epinephrine auto-injector (sometimes, more than one dose) followed by medical assistance at an emergency facility for observation and additional treatment. Late phase reactions can suddenly appear and can be more intense than initial reaction,” Dr. Adeli added.

 

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