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No stings attached! Home remedies for insect bites

Insect bites can be painful and if they happen on a trip- it can take away the fun of adventure. Here are some first aid options for insect bites.

Written by Anusuya Suresh |Updated : February 24, 2015 10:31 PM IST

Insect bitesWhile certain insect bites can prove dangerous, the most common bites are unpleasant because they leave behind a long-lasting itchiness and skin irritation. And especially if this happens during a picnic or an outdoor adventure trip, it can interfere with your ability to enjoy or participate wholeheartedly in the fun. That's why it is important to know a few basic first aid techniques that can be used in case of an insect bite.

Check the Symptoms

When bitten by an insect, the first sensation is always that of a sting, followed almost immediately by an itch and a burning sort of pain. A few minutes later, there is a redness of skin, a rash or a swelling that appears around the area that was bitten. This is part of a normal response to the venom that was injected into the body by the insect bite. In people who are extremely sensitive, there may be a more severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis that manifests as swelling of the face, a severe sense of nausea, breathing difficulty or wheezing, a severe drop in blood pressure or fainting.

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Stay Calm

The more agitated the person gets and greater the movements he makes, faster is the blood circulation and greater the chance of the venom spreading to other parts of the body. So ensure calm and quiet and keep the bitten area as immobile as possible. Loosen any clothing and immediately remove any ornament such as a ring, bangle, anklet or toe ring from the affected area because the area may swell after some time.

Remove the Stinger

Some insects leave behind the stinger from which the venom was released at the site of the bite. Examine this site to check for the presence of the stinger. If you can see it, try to remove it by scraping with an object that has a straight edge such as an ATM card or a blunt knife. Avoid using tweezers to pull out the stinger because this may crush the venom sac within, leading to a greater amount of venom being released into the skin.

Wash and Clean

Once you have removed the stinger or if there is no stinger visible, wash the affected part under clean running water for a few minutes. If soap is readily available, clean the area with soap and water. If there is a topic disinfectant solution such as Dettol or Savlon available, dilute it with water and dab lightly on the site of the bite. An oral rinse or mouthwash may also help because the alcohol it contains acts as an antiseptic. (Read: Common kitchen ingredients that double up as first aid!)

Reduce the Inflammation

Use an ice pack immediately after washing to keep the inflammation low. If ice is not available, soak a clean cloth in some water and hold it tight against the affected area for at least 10 minutes at a stretch. Try to keep the area of the insect bite at an elevated level to avoid the blood draining into that area this will prevent the part from swelling too much.

Use OTC Medicines

For skin irritation and itching following an insect bite, it is best to use over-the-counter medication such as Calamine lotion that helps to soothe the irritated skin. If there is a lot of inflammation or pain, a painkiller such as Paracetamol may be taken. In case of severe itching that does not subside by the use of Calamine lotion, or a severe rash, an antihistamine such as chlorpheniramine maleate may be used.

If the person who suffers an insect bite suffers from any of the symptoms that indicate a severe allergic reaction, it is best to get him or her to the doctor at the earliest. Especially in cases when the sting is in and around the mouth, this is crucial because the mucus membranes within the oral cavity are quite sensitive and may undergo rapid swelling that blocks the normal breathing process.

The effects of innocuous insect bites tend to subside within two to three days if you use the first aid techniques mentioned here. However, if you find the pain or irritation persisting beyond this period, it is good to see a doctor because it may indicate a deeper infection or injury. (Read: 10 essential medicines you should have at home)

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of anaphylaxis.

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