Insect Bites 

First aid for insect bites and stings

To treat an insect bite or sting:

  • Remove the sting, tick or hairs if still in the skin (see below for advice about how to do this safely). 
  • Wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold compress (such as a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water) or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes.
  • Raise or elevate the affected area if possible, as this can help reduce swelling.
  • Avoid scratching the area or bursting any blisters, to reduce the risk of infection – if your child has been bitten or stung, it may help to keep their fingernails short and clean.
  • Avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they're unlikely to help.

The pain, swelling and itchiness can sometimes last a few days. See below for advice about how to relieve the symptoms of an insect bite or sting in the meantime.

Removing a sting

If you've been stung and the sting has been left in your skin, you should remove it as soon as possible to prevent any more venom being released.

Scrape it out sideways with something with a hard edge, such as a bank card, or your fingernails if you don't have anything else to hand.

Don't pinch the sting with your fingers or tweezers because you may spread the venom.

insect bite

Removing a tick

If you've been bitten by a tick and it's still attached to your skin, remove it as soon as possible to reduce your risk of picking up illnesses such as Lyme disease.

To remove a tick:

  • Use a pair of tweezers that won't squash the tick (such as fine-tipped tweezers) or a tick removal tool (available from pet shops or vets).
  • Grip the tick as close to the skin as possible to ensure the tick's mouth isn't left in the skin.
  • Pull steadily away from the skin without crushing the tick.
  • Wash your skin with water and soap afterwards, then apply an antiseptic cream to the skin around the bite.

If you use a tick removal tool follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Don't use a lit cigarette end, a match head or substances such as alcohol or petroleum jelly to force the tick out.

Dealing with caterpillar hairs

If a caterpillar of the oak processionary moth gets on your skin:

  • Use tweezers or a pen to remove it.
  • Try not to disturb it (for example, by brushing it with your hands) as it will then release more hairs.
  • Rinse your skin with running water, allow it to air dry and then use sticky tape to strip off any leftover hairs.
  • Use calamine, ice packs or a pharmacy remedy containing 3.5% ammonia to relieve the itch.
  • Remove all contaminated clothes and wash at as a high a temperature as the fabric allows.

Don't towel yourself dry after rinsing or use creams containing antihistamine.

Relieving the symptoms of an insect bite or sting

If you have troublesome symptoms after an insect bite or sting, the following treatments may help:

  • For pain or discomfort – take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 years of age shouldn't be given aspirin).
  • For itching – ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter treatments, including crotamiton cream or lotion, hydrocortisone cream or ointment and antihistamine tablets.
  • For swelling – try regularly applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area, or ask your pharmacist about treatments such as antihistamine tablets.

See your GP if these treatments don't help. They may prescribe stronger medicines such as steroid tablets.

When to get medical advice

Contact your GP or call NHS 111 for advice if:

  • you're worried about a bite or sting
  • your symptoms don't start to improve within a few days or are getting worse
  • you've been stung or bitten in your mouth or throat, or near your eyes
  • a large area (around 10cm or more) around the bite becomes red and swollen – your GP may refer you to an allergy clinic for further tests or treatment (read about treating allergies)
  • you have symptoms of a wound infection, such as pus or increasing pain, swelling or redness – you may need antibiotics
  • you have symptoms of a more widespread infection, such as a fever, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms

When to get emergency help

Dial 999 for an ambulance immediately if you or someone else has symptoms of a severe reaction, such as:

  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • a swollen face, mouth or throat
  • nausea or vomiting
  • a fast heart rate
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • difficulty swallowing
  • loss of consciousness

Emergency treatment in hospital is needed in these cases.

(sourced from NHS Choices) 


Medicine Cabinet- Live Well

Even a minor illness and ailments such as colds, headaches and diarrhoea can disrupt your life. Be prepared for most common ailments by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home.

Sunita Behl of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society explains the essential medicines your cabinet should contain. This list doesn't cover everything, but it will help you deal with most minor ailments.

Always follow the directions on medicine packets and information leaflets, and never take more than the stated dose.vd

If you have questions about any of these medicines or you want to buy them, ask your local pharmacist.

Always keep medicines out of the sight and reach of children. A high, lockable cupboard in a cool, dry place is ideal.

Regularly check the expiry dates on a medicine. If a medicine is past its use-by date, don't use it or throw it away. Take it to your pharmacy, where it can be disposed of safely.

Pain relief

Painkillers such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are highly effective at relieving most minor aches and pains, such as headaches and menstrual pain. Aspirin must not be given to children under 16. 

These medicines also help with some minor ailments, such as the common cold, by reducing aches, pain and high temperatures.

These three medicines also help reduce the inflammation seen in arthritis and sprains.

Antihistamines

These are useful for dealing with allergies and insect bites. They're also helpful if you have hay fever.

Antihistamines can come in the form of creams you apply to the skin (topical antihistamine) or tablets you swallow (oral antihistamine).

Antihistamine creams soothe insect stings and bites, and rashes and itching from stinging nettles.

Antihistamine tablets help control hay fever symptoms and calm minor allergic reactions to food. They can also help calm itchiness during chickenpox

Some antihistamines may cause drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist about this as there are some antihistamines that don't cause drowsiness.

Oral rehydration salts

Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration.

If you have these symptoms and can't continue your normal diet, oral rehydration salts can help restore your body's natural balance of minerals and fluid, and relieve discomfort and tiredness. But they don't fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as a virus or bacteria.

Rehydration salts, available at your local pharmacy, are an easy way to take in minerals and fluid, and help your recovery.

Anti-diarrhoea tablets

Diarrhoea is caused by a range of things, such as food poisoning or a stomach virus, and can happen without warning. It's a good idea to keep an anti-diarrhoea medicine at home.

Anti-diarrhoeal remedies can quickly control the unpleasant symptoms of diarrhoea, although they don't deal with the underlying cause.

The most common anti-diarrhoeal is loperamide (sold under the names Imodium, Arret and Diasorb, among others). It works by slowing down the action of your gut.

Don't give anti-diarrhoeals to children under 12 because they may have undesirable side effects. Speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice about a child with these symptoms.

Indigestion treatment

If you have stomach acheheartburn or trapped wind, a simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief.

Antacids come as chewable tablets, tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form.

Sunscreen

Keep a sun lotion of at least factor 15. Even fairly brief exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and increase your risk of skin cancer. Ensure your suncreen provides UVA protection.

You can protect yourself against the sun further by wearing a hat and sunglasses, and by avoiding the sun during the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 3pm.

Your first aid kit

As well as the medicines discussed above, keep a well-prepared first aid kit. This can help treat minor cuts, sprains and bruises, and reduce the risk of cuts becoming infected. It should contain the following items:

  • bandages – these can support injured limbs, such as a sprained wrist, and also apply direct pressure to larger cuts before being treated in hospital
  • plasters – a range of sizes, waterproof if possible
  • thermometer – digital thermometers that you put in your mouth produce very accurate readings; a thermometer placed under the arm is a good way to read a baby or young fachild's temperature
  • antiseptic – this can be used to clean cuts before they're dressed (bandaged) and most can treat a range of conditions, including insect stings, ulcers and pimples; alcohol-free antiseptic wipes are useful to clean cuts
  • eyewash solution – this will help wash out grit or dirt in the eyes
  • sterile dressings – larger injuries should be covered with a sterile dressing to prevent infection until treatment can be given by a health professional
  • medical tape – this is used to secure dressings and can also be used to tape an injured finger to an uninjured one, creating a makeshift splint
  • Your medicine cabinet - Live Well - NHS Choices
    tweezers – for taking out splinters; if splinters are left in, they can cause discomfort and become infected

How your pharmacist can help

Don't forget your local pharmacist can help with many ailments, such as coughs, coldsasthma, eczemahay fever and period pain. They can give advice or, where appropriate, medicines that can help clear up the problem.

Instead of booking an appointment with your GP, you can see your local pharmacist any time  just walk in. Learn more about how your pharmacist can help with treating common conditions.

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(Sourced from NHS Choices)