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First Aid Basics: Bug Bites & Stings

Updated on March 11, 2008
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BeeWaspHornetThe Western Yellow Jacket
The Western Yellow Jacket
The Western Yellow Jacket

Taking a bite out of an apple is a perfectly natural thing for you to do. Right? Well, in the insect world, it is perfectly natural for them to take a bite out of YOU! First Aid treatment for an animal bite is quite different from how you would treat an insect bite. Knowing the basics of how to treat a variety of bug bites can not only ease pain and itching, but it can also stop the spread of disease and even save a life.

How to Treat a Bee Sting

Yellow Jackets, Wasps, Bees and Hornets

The most common type of bite is an insect bite or sting. Yellow Jackets, Wasps, Hornets and Bees are all insects that inject venom under the skin which produces a few minutes of fierce burning, followed by redness and itching. A welt may form but it usually subsides in 3-4 hours.

Treatment is pretty standard for these types of bites. First, make sure the stinger is gone, if not scrape it out with a fingernail or knife blade to avoid squeezing the venom sac. Second, wash the area with soap and water.

After the area is clean there are a variety of things you can try to ease any discomfort. The list below is what could be called "home grown" but who cares as long as it works!

What To Do When Your Dog Gets A Bite

Try One Of These Ideas To Reduce The Pain And Itching

  • Meat tenderizer on a gauze pad applied to the sting for 30 minutes.
  • Apply and alkaline lotion such as a strong solution of baking soda. Add a few drops of ammonia to relieve itching.
  • Wash with an antiseptic wash to relieve pain.

  • Apply ice, cold compresses, calamine or other soothing lotions.

  • Wet the sting area and rub an aspirin tablet over it. Do not use if you are allergic to aspirin.

  • Dab household ammonia on the spot.

  • Apply a mud plaster to the sting area and cover with a bandage. Keep in place until dry.

How to Reduce the Itching of an Insect Bite

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

If a sting victim displays any of the following symptoms they need to see a doctor immediately.

Symptoms include labored breathing, difficulties swallowing, constricted chest, abdominal pain, nausea, confusion, vomiting, weakness, blurriness, rapid fall of blood pressure, collapse, incontinence, unconsciousness and extreme sleepiness.

Estimates are that as many as 5% of people are allergic to the stings of bees, wasps & ants. Persons who is known to be allergic should carry what is called a "bee sting kit" which can be used after a sting to prevent a severe reaction and allow the victim time to seek medical attention as possible.

How to Prevent Insect Stings

How To Avoid Getting Stung

  • Destroy all nests around houses and watch for holes in the ground and old stumps.

  • Avoid scented soaps, lotions, shampoos, perfume, floral prints and bright colors on your clothing.

  • Take care to keep food covered when outdoors and keep garbage disposal areas far from areas people inhabit.

  • Act calm when dealing with insects and slowly back away so as to not act aggressively and try to swat at it.

  • Increase your intake of Vitamin B to help you smell less appealing.

  • Avoid eating melons while outdoors as they attract these types of insects.

How to Use Insect Repellent to Avoid Bites

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Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, centipedes and ants.

Bites from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and ants are also fairly common and can cause serious problems when not cared for properly. The diseases spread by these creatures include Malaria, Lyme Disease, Yellow Fever, Encephalitis and even the Plague.

Avoiding biting insects when you don't have insect repellent handy isn't easy, but it can be done. For instance you could try smoking up your camp. Insects don't like smoke. Apply a mud plaster on exposed surfaces of your skin. Place thin sheets of birch bark between your skin and thin layers of fabric that insects can easily bite through. Avoid areas where these insects live and breed.

Here are some hints and tips for different insects:

  • Mosquitoes appear to prefer the color blue and they like clothing with perspiration on it more than wet clothing.

  • Ticks can easily be killed by painting them with nail polish, vegetable oil or petroleum jelly. Carefully remove them by grabbing close to the skin with a pair of tweezers. Make sure all the parts have been removed and wash the area with soap and water to avoid infection. Keep the tick to show a doctor, if you develop a rash at the location of the bite, flu like symptoms, local paralysis, skin sensations, hearing loss or insomnia or have painful joints or other arthritic complications.

  • Chiggers can easily be removed by lathering several times with a good soap. A cold pack can help ease the stinging feeling and welts.
  • Centipede bites are painful but seldom dangerous. The one exception is the poisonous Giant Desert Centipede which is 6 inched long and inflicts a very painful bite that must be treated like a snake bite.

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Female Black Widow SpiderBlack Widow spider bite reaction
Female Black Widow Spider
Female Black Widow Spider
Black Widow spider bite reaction
Black Widow spider bite reaction


A spider bite can cause serious complications if not treated properly. Recognizing two of the most common poisonous species and knowing the proper first aid treatment could mean the difference between a full recovery and death.

The Female Black Widow Spider:

- Color: dark brown to glossy black body with a red or yellow hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen.

- Size: 1 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long with the legs extended.

- Habitat: Outdoors in sheds, outhouses, under stones, logs, in hollow stumps or wood piles, barns, rock walls or dark corners in garages, etc.

- Reaction to bite:

  • Local redness with two tiny red spots.
  • An immediate sharp pain that may go away. ยง Venom works within 30 minutes

  • Heavy perspiration, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

  • Abdominal muscles will become rigid.

  • Great deal of pain in the limbs and there will be difficulty in talking and breathing.

  • Death might be caused in as many as 5% of the cases from breathing paralysis.

  • First Aid involves keeping the victim calm and applying an antiseptic to the sting area with ice packs to slow the spread of the poison - ON THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL!

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The Brown Recluse SpiderBrown Recluse Spider bite reaction
The Brown Recluse Spider
The Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse Spider bite reaction
Brown Recluse Spider bite reaction

The Brown Recluse Spider:

- Color: Light yellow to dark brown body.

- Size: Oval shape. 1/8 to 1/4 inches long, 1/4 inch wide. Eight legs and a distinctive fiddle shaped mark on the back.

- Habitat: Southern and Midwestern United States. Lives in dark places like trash piles, attics, closets or dresser drawers.

- Reaction to bite:

  • Sting is almost painless
  • Pain will occur 2-8 hours later followed by blisters, swelling or ulceration.
  • Some people experience a rash, nausea, jaundice, chills, fever, cramps or joint pain.
  • First Aid involves keeping the victim calm and getting them to a doctor immediately. If quick medical attention is not taken, weak adults or children have been known to die.


The last insect we will cover is the scorpion. This insect lives in all of the temperate areas of North America but the only poisonous variety lives in the Southwest. The poisonous type is a solid straw yellow or yellow with irregular black stripes on their backs. Their habit is to avoid the heat of day in humid areas by hiding under stones, bark, boards, outhouse floors or burrowing in the sand. At night they roam freely and can enter houses under doors. Avoiding them is the best policy since it is very hard to identify a scorpion bite since the victim usually doesn't see what stung them.

  • Non-poisonous sting usually causes swelling and discoloration and can be quite painful.
  • Poisonous stings do not usually change the appearance of the area around the sting.
  • The area only becomes very sensitive.

  • The poison will cause the victim to have facial contortions and an increase in saliva flow.

  • A fever of 104 F will develop, the tongue will become sluggish and there will be an increase in intense convulsions which may be fatal.

  • First Aid requires keeping the victim quiet, call the doctor immediately and apply a tourniquet between the sting area and the heart. Do not give the victim a painkiller, this will increase the toxicity of the venom.

Obviously there are many, many other insects that we deal with in our daily lives. These are just a few and were chosen to provide the important information for how to deal with them and which are capable of causing serious injury or even death. Educating ourselves to know how to deal with and recognize the scary bugs as well as the pesky bugs is an important part of anyone's basic First Aid Skills.


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      6 years ago

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    • world of the wise profile image

      world of the wise 

      8 years ago from World of the wise

      Your hub is very insightfull

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Have you ever tried Bite Aid on insect bites and jellyfish stings? It is incredible. Spray on the area and let it air dry. No more itching or pain. Fantastic.

      Great information on this page.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Thank you for sharing this information, I hope I can remember it when I need to! lol Great HUB.

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Great information. Very useful. Excellent hub.


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