By Caryle Regan, RN

Most reactions to insect bites or stings are mild. They can cause minor swelling, stinging, redness, or itching. Sometimes, however, they can cause severe reactions such as a sting from a wasp, hornet, fire ant, or scorpion. Some insect bites or stings can cause diseases such as Bacterial Meningitis, West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. According to the Mayo Clinic for mild reactions you should:
1 Move to a safe area to avoid more bites or stings.
2. Remove the stinger if needed.
3. Wash the area with soap and water.
4. Use a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to reduce pain and swelling.
5, Apply hydrocortisone cream or Benadryl gel, calamine lotion, or baking soda paste to the affected area 3-4 times daily until the symptoms clear up. (Note there are contraindications for both Benadryl and hydrocortisone. See: or

Some stings or bites require 911 emergency care. Call 911 if any of the following occur.
1. Difficulty breathing, chest tightness or wheezing
2. Swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat
3. Dizziness, faintness or confusion
4. Rapid heartbeat
5. Hives
6. Nausea, cramps or vomiting
7. Scorpion sting to a child
8. Trouble swallowing or speaking.

While waiting for the 911 response you could take the following steps:
1. Ask if the person is carrying an epinephrine injector and if so do they need help using it. If yes, press the injector against the person’s thigh and hold in place for several seconds. If they don’t have a pen and it’s available to give Benadryl/diphenhydramine (see for contraindications).
2. Loosen tight clothing and cover the person with a blanket.
3. Don’t give anything to eat or drink.
4. Position to prevent choking if the person is vomiting
5. Begin CPR if necessary.

Prevention is always the best idea. Here are some tips for applying insect repellent (
1. Follow the instructions.
2. Spray repellent on clothes or skin but not on the face.
3. Don’t use repellent on babies or on your pets.
4. Repellent used on children should contain no more than 10% DEET. Oil of eucalyptus should not be used or children under 3 years old.
5. Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands, around the eyes, or to areas where there are cuts or irritated skin.
6. Wash repellent off with soap and water and contact a poison control center if anyone experiences a reaction to the repellent.
7. After you come inside, remove the repellent with soap and water.
8. Store repellent out of children’s reach.

The Beacon of Hope is located at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle, SJC. Phone 239-283-5123.