Concerned about bug bites?? Maybe you should be!

Because of the popularity of the First Aid articles I’ve put up here, I decided to write another before getting into other survival subjects.  This one probably won’t be as eye opening as the article on being shot, but it covers a subject that you are a lot more likely to encounter.  A lot of this information might seem be a refresher for a lot of people, but it never hurts to refresh on the basics in case we need to use the knowledge we have.  As always, I’ll start out by saying that I’m not a medical professional so consult a doctor when the need for medical care arises.  We’re going to be covering insect and spider bites.  I’m going to break it into two parts because treatment is very different for a simple mosquito bite and a person going into shock from multiple bee stings.  At its most basic, an insect or spider bite is simply an allergic reaction.  Some will result in mild reaction and some can result in a serious reaction that can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Mild Reaction Treatment:

A mild reaction to a bite or sting can range from a small red bump on the skin to an extremely painful bee sting.  Most of us have experienced these types of reactions more than we would like.  Mosquitoes moving in at dark on that perfect day at the lake or fire ants inviting themselves to that picnic in the field are a nuisance, but isn’t really a serious medical concern.  A bite or sting of this type usually just results in some discomfort, itching, and a little redness.  An ice pack or a topical creme like Cortisone or a paste made of water and baking soda can take care of it in a jiffy and get you back to having a good time.  Even a single bee sting, though painful, isn’t something to be concerned about for most of us.  There are some folks that can have a severe reaction, but its not common and we’ll cover it in the second part of this article.  Bee stings might require a little bit more attention because bees leave their stinger imbedded in the skin.  You can take solace in the fact that bees can only sting once and after that they fly off to die.  They’re the Kamikaze bombers of the insect world.  Additional treatment for a bee sting includes using something with a sharp edge to scrape across the skin to remove the stinger.  Resist the urge to squeeze the stung area since this will push more of the venom out of the stinger and into the skin.  An old home remedy to help with the stinging sensation and swelling is to apply freshly chewed tobacco to the area.  I had this done as a kid and it does work, but I will understand if others aren’t keen on the idea.  Something a little more medical (and sanitary!) would be a Benadryl creme.  Of course it is a good idea to monitor anyone that gets a bite for signs of a more serious reaction, but for the most part nothing else should be required.  If the discomfort isn’t bad, you can just wash with soap and water and go on your way.  Soap won’t do much for the venom, but it will help prevent infection from the inevitable scratching the area might receive.


Serious Reaction Treatment and Poisonous Spiders:

Serious reactions to insect stings or bites are just that, SERIOUS.  This type of reaction generally occurs when a person is extremely allergic to the venom or when a person is stung multiple times.  In these cases, the body produces a very strong histamine reaction that can be fatal.  The proper name is anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:

1. Nausea

2. Difficulty breathing

3. Swelling

4. Reduced blood pressure (shock)

5. Dizziness

6.  Rapid heart rate

If you are treating someone with these symptoms after an insect sting or bite you should seek medical attention immediately.  Some immediate first aid includes administering an anti-histamine drug such as Benadryl if they are able to swallow.  You should also have the person lay down and elevate the feet.  If the person is wearing anything that could become restrictive because of swelling, it should be removed.  If the person has a history of allergic reactions, they might be carrying a kit with an EpiPen.  Now would be the time to administer the Epinephrine.  Some of you might be thinking that it would be a good idea to have one of these EpiPens on hand just in case.  On the outside its a good idea, but these things are available by prescription only and are very expensive, one time use devices.  It is best left for a doctor to determine if someone should carry one and have it administered to them if needed.  These injections can have side effects that can adversely affect the patient, and you could be in serious trouble if you administer someone a prescription medication without being qualified.  Benadryl is a much safer way to treat someone for an allergic reaction.  I carry Benadryl capsules and children’s liquid in my first aid kit for this very reason.  The goal, as it always is with FIRST aid, is to stabilize someone until they can receive medical care from the professionals.

Spider bites are like other stings and bites in that they can go one of two ways.  The normal spider bite can be treated like a mild reaction insect bite.  I don’t have any idea on the number of different spiders that bite, but only two will fall into the serious category.  We’re all familiar with them as they are all over the place.  The Brown Recluse and Black Widow are the ones to look out for.

Brown Recluse bites are rarely noticed when they happen and it can take several hours to a day for the onset of symptoms.  These include fever, chills, nausea, weakness, and lesions and necrosis (dying tissue) at the bite location.  Black Widows bites are a little more likely to be felt when they happen, but they aren’t always noticed. These bites share most of the same symptoms as a Brown Recluse bite, but the victim might also have difficulty breathing and lose consciousness.  In case of bite by either of these spiders, you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.  First aid doesn’t really come into play since there isn’t much that can be done outside of a professional medical environment.  Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling until medical help can be reached.

Brown Recluse Spider:


Black Widow:


One Response to Concerned about bug bites?? Maybe you should be!

  • Sarah says:

    Another home remedy that works for bites where venom is involved, like a wasp, yellow jacket or hornet, is applying a paste of meat tenderizer to the sting. It breaks down the protein in the venom, and helps you recover more quickly. For those of you wondering if you have any in your spice cabinet, most Fajita Seasonings contain meat tenderizer.

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