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First Aid for Insect Stings

Acting quickly can reduce your risk of a serious reaction.  

First remove stinging insects or their stingers. In most cases you can simply brush the insect away. You may need to pull fire ants off -- be sure to check for multiple ants and get rid of all of them. 

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If a bee has left a stinger in your skin, scrape it and the attached venom sac away with your fingernail. Don’t try to pick it off, or you could squeeze more venom into your skin.  

If you have multiple stings -- particularly to your head or neck -- call your doctor right away. 

If you carry an Auvi-Q or EpiPen, give yourself a shot. Call 911 or have someone take you to an emergency room immediately, even if the shot worked.

You should also call 911 if you have symptoms like wheezing, trouble breathing, severe swelling, abdominal cramps, vomiting, dizziness, chest tightness, hoarseness, or blue lips.

Otherwise, you can start treatment on your own.

  • Put ice on the bite or sting off and on (15 minutes on, 15 minutes off). Use a towel. Don’t put ice directly on your skin and don’t use heat.
  • Elevate the area of the bite or sting to reduce swelling.
  • Take an antihistamine and use a hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 22, 2012

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