Most reactions to insect bites and stings are mild, causing little more than redness, itching, stinging or minor swelling. Rarely, insect bites and stings, such as from a bee, a wasp, a hornet, a fire ant or a scorpion, can result in severe reactions. Some insects also carry disease, such as West Nile virus.
For mild reactions
To take care of an insect bite or sting that causes a mild reaction:
- Move to a safe area to avoid more bites or stings.
- If needed, remove the stinger.
- Wash the area with soap and water.
- Apply a cool compress. Use a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice. This helps reduce pain and swelling. If the injury is on an arm or leg, elevate it.
- Apply 0.5 or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to the bite or sting several times daily until your symptoms go away.
- Take an antihistamine (Benadryl, others) to reduce itching.
Usually, the signs and symptoms of a bite or sting disappear in a day or two. If you’re concerned — even if your reaction is minor — call your doctor.