what to do

Dealing with bites and stings

Mosquito bites.jpg

As the warm summer months come around, people up and down the country are dusting off their picnic sets and heading outdoors to enjoy the open air.

So it's little surprise that we see the most cases of bites and stings at this time of year. If you're in the UK, the usual suspects are bees, wasps, ticks, hornets, spiders, mosquitoes and horseflies. 

While they may be painful or itchy, bites and stings usually heal on their own. But it's possible for some people to experience an infection or allergic reaction. We've put together this handy guide with some first-aid pointers on what to do if you or someone nearby gets bitten or stung.  

Step 1: Get the stinger (for bee stings)

Honeybees and yellow jackets leave their sting inside the skin. If you act fast, you can minimise the pain and swelling. Scrape the stinger out of the skin using your fingernail or credit card. But be careful: if you squeeze the stinger with your fingers or tweezers, you might inject more venom into the wound. 

Step 2: Wash it carefully

Using cool water and mild soap, gently clean the site of the bite or sting. This may help wash out some of the venom.

Step 3: Use ice or a cold compress

Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area of skin around the sting or bite for 10 minutes. Then take the ice off for 10 minutes and repeat once more. If you use ice, wrap it in a towel so that it isn’t directly on the skin.   

Step 4: Go to the pharmacy

Taking an over-the-counter pain killer, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can relieve some of the discomfort. Just be sure to follow the dosing instructions on the pack. A mild antihistamine and hydrocortisone cream might help with itching. You should always get advice from a GP or pharmacist before you use these products.

When to get emergency help

You should dial 999 for an ambulance straightaway if you or someone else has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • A swollen face, mouth or throat
  • Feeling sick or being sick
  • A fast heart rate
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of consciousness

Have you been bitten or stung?

You should make an appointment with a Doctor Care Anywhere clincian if:

  • Your symptoms don’t improve within a few days or get worse
  • A large area of skin around the bite becomes red and swollen
  • You have symptoms of an infection, such as the wound starts oozing pus, or becomes increasingly painful or hot
  • You have symptoms of a widespread infection, such as a high temperature, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms
  • You’re concerned you have a tick bite with or without a rash around the bite mark

When you book the appointment, you can upload photos of the bite or sting site for the clinician to evaluate. This will help make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment.



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