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BLOG: Treat bites and stings at home by following some basic tips

17 July 2017

Dr Nina Pearson, Clinical Chair for Luton Clinical Commissioning Group talks about the actions you can take at home to care for an insect bite or sting.

Insect bites and stings usually only cause minor irritation.  Most can be treated at home using a basic first aid kit. However, being stung or receiving an insect bite as a child can feel like a big deal - it may even feel like the worst pain they have experienced. But apart from the affected area getting a little red or swollen it‘s usually only minor and clears up within several hours. 

For minor bites and stings, it is best to wash the area with soap and water and place a cold compress over the affected area to reduce swelling.  Try and keep your child’s fingernails short and clean so they don’t try to scratch the area.  This could cause an infection.

If the bite or sting is painful or swollen, wrap an ice pack, such as a bag of frozen peas, in a towel and place it on the swelling.  Take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 years of age shouldn't be given aspirin) or use a spray or cream that contains local anaesthetic, antihistamine or mild hydrocortisone (1%) on the affected area to prevent itching and swelling.

Following advice from a pharmacist or your GP, you can try an antihistamine tablet to help reduce swelling (antihistamine tablets are available over the counter from pharmacies).

But in rare cases, some stings can be painful and trigger a serious allergic reaction.

If your child experiences an allergic reaction, it usually shows up as swelling or itching on other parts of the body, and maybe wheezing or difficulty swallowing.  In this case, you will need emergency medical treatment, so it’s best to call NHS 111 for advice over the phone or seek medical advice at A&E.

If your child has lots of swelling and blistering or you see pus, this can indicate an infection, so it’s best to call NHS 111 for advice over the phone.  NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They can also advise you where to go if you do need medical attention.

Otherwise, self-care is the best treatment. For more information about treating bites and stings, visit www.nhs.uk 

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