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First Aid & Emergencies

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Understanding Insect and Spider Bites -- Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Insect Bites and Spider Bites?

For insect bites and spider bites that aren't serious, the goal of treatment is simply to relieve discomfort. If the bite or sting causes a severe reaction, seek immediate medical help. Always be sure your tetanus immunization is current.

  • General insect bites: The discomfort of many insect bites can be soothed by an ice cube, a cold washcloth, calamine lotion, a paste of baking soda, or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment. For mosquito or other minor bites, apply calamine lotion.
  • Black widow spider: If you think you've been bitten by a black widow spider, seek medical help. Your health care provider may prescribe pain medicine, medications for nausea and/or an anti-anxiety drug for muscle spasms. Antivenom may also be used in some cases.
  • Brown recluse spider: A spreading wound from a brown recluse spider bite should be surgically cleaned and repaired, although surgery isn't always required. Apply cold packs but don't apply ice. 
  • Ticks: If you find a tick embedded in the skin, remove it carefully without crushing it. Grip it near the head with tweezers or gloved fingers and pull gently and steadily. Call your doctor and find out if you need to take a medicine to prevent Lyme Disease. Watch for a rash, which may indicate Lyme disease, tularemia, relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or another disease. If you find a rash, seek medical care.
  • Scorpion sting: For a scorpion sting, call your doctor. Seek immediate medical help if symptoms are severe. You may receive something to neutralize the poison or a medication to relieve muscle spasms. The FDA has approved Anascorp, a treatment specifically for scorpion stings. 
  • Fire ants: Some relief from the itchy pustules caused by fire ants is provided by anti-itch cream or soaking in ice water.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 22, 2015

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