Bites and stings

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When an insect (mosquito, wasp, bee, flea, etc.) or a spider bites or stings, they inoculate substances in the body that irritate the skin, causing hives or welts to appear in the affected area.

If you are bitten or stung by animals or plants, it is important to note that scratching releases histamine, and this causes more discomfort for a longer time.

It is also important to identify the type of animal or plant causing the bite or sting to understand its basic aspects and characteristics. The most common symptoms caused are:

  • Mosquitoes: it is very difficult to get away from them and their bite causes wheals (lumps that appear on the skin due to an insect bite and cause significant itching) or papules (raised spots on the skin), with reddening and swelling. They are usually accompanied by an intense itch.
  • Wasps and bees: they also cause wheals, along with reddening, swelling and itching, which is more severe and painful than the bites caused by mosquitoes. For bee stings, special care must be exercised when removing the stinger, as the poison sac on one end of it can be harmful if it breaks. Wasps, by contrast, do not leave their stingers stuck in the skin. When a wasp stings a pheromone is released that can attract other members of the colony, so it is advisable to move away from the place where this insect has stung us.
  • Jellyfish: common symptoms to their stings are: pain, burning, swelling and reddening. Never apply fresh water, hot water, pressure bandages, ammonia or alcohol.
  • Nettles: nettle hairs act as a hypodermic needles when the skin contacts it. They cause an unpleasant burning sensation and a rash.

Tips to avoiding insect bites/stings

For insects, the following tips can be useful to avoid them biting/stinging:

  • Do not go near bee hives or wasp nests.
  • If a bee or wasp lands on a person, do not try to drive them away or kill them. You must remain still or make very slow movements until they leave.
  • If you drink a sugary drink during the summer, you must make sure that there are no insects on the rim of the glass.
  • Shake the clothes left on the floor before putting them back on.
  • Avoid walking through areas with lots of flowers.
  • Do not go barefoot outside the home.
  • Keep the rubbish bins tightly closed.
  • It is not advisable to wear brightly coloured clothing. The safest colours are green and brown.
  • Do not use strong smelling cosmetics or perfumes when you go out into the countryside.
  • For outdoor work, especially gardening, trousers, long sleeves and gloves should be worn.

An insect sting should never be underestimated as its effect is highly dependent on the person: if they are sensitive, an anaphylactic shock can occur.

It is recommended to contact the emergency services in the following cases:

  • When generalised skin reactions appear after wasp, bee or bumblebee stings.
  • If the area of the sting swells a lot or continues to swell during the hours that follow. Some areas such as the mouth and nose are more dangerous because when inflamed, it can obstruct the entry of air, making it difficult to breathe.
  • If the swelling persists for several days, it may have become infected, although if the initial local reaction was considerable, it takes longer to go down. Infected lesions are usually very red, hot, and painful; sometimes they are also associated with a fever. The doctor can administer local antibiotic treatment (ointment) or orally (syrups) in these cases.

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