Typical reactions to a sting include swelling, redness and itching at the insect sting site. But in a few rare instances, a sting can become a serious medical emergency.

Treating an insect sting involves a relative simple number of measures. These include the following:

– Elevate the affected arm or leg and apply ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain.

– Apply an over-the-counter product like Calamine lotion on the infected area. – If blisters appear, gently clean them with soap and water, and never break blisters.

-A topical steroid ointments or oral antihistamines can help relieve any accompanying itch.

– Visit a doctor if swelling from a sting does not subside or the sting site becomes infected.

– If stung by a honeybee that has left its stinger (and attached venom sac) in the skin, gently remove the stinger with a quick scrape of the fingernail over the affected area within 30 seconds to avoid receiving more venom.

-If stung by fire ants, carefully brush them off to prevent repeated stings and leave the area. A fire ant sting usually leads to a blister about 24 hours after the sting. The blister should be left alone, and will generally heal in seven to 10 days.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: For a small number of people allergic to insect venom, a sting situation could quickly become life threatening. Severe allergic reactions to insect stings can involve many body organs and lead to anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include itching and hives, swelling in the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea. If a person has a severe sting allergy, it is important to have on hand an auto-injectable epinephrine device to help counteract the venom. In every case though, the individual with the sting should always be taken to a hospital emergency room for immediate treatment.

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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