Health Team

Treating summer bug bites

Posted August 14, 2008 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2008 10:26 p.m. EDT

— Patients with bug bites are common visitors to doctors during the summer.

Jeanne Horton was watering plants when she suffered a bee sting.

“All of the sudden, I felt a sting and I looked down, and it was a yellow jacket hanging on my arm,” Horton said.

Horton put ice on the wound – which helped control the swelling. Cold packs work, too.

After a few days, the redness and swelling remained, but Horton said the sting wasn’t as painful as it had been the night after she was stung.

In the future, Horton said she plans to be more careful outdoors.

“I'm going to wear long sleeves now when I'm out watering,” Horton said.

Unlike Horton, some people are allergic to bee stings – suffering severe symptoms such as breathing problems and fainting. These people need emergency care and are often prescribed an EpiPen injector (containing epinephrine) to use in case they are stung.

For most people, an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl is recommend right after a sting or bite. Doctors may also prescribe steroid cream and a steroid tapered-dose pack of pills.

The same first aid and medical treatment will work for fire ant bites, which may involve multiple stings and be very painful.

Tick bites can cause scarring and inflammation. Prescription steroid creams can be used to help. Because of the threat of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease, experts recommend contacting a doctor if a tick has been attached for more than 24 hours. It will help to bring the tick to the appointment. Antibiotics can be used to prevent infection.

After going through tall grassy areas or the woods, experts suggests people check their bodies for ticks.

Mosquitoes are sometimes known to carry diseases like West Nile Virus. Doctors recommend using an insect repellent that contains the chemical DEET to avoid mosquitoes and ticks.