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Tips for Treating Insect Stings

For most children, the biting and stinging insects of summer are just minor annoyances - but for some, they can represent a serious problem, says Margie Andreae, M.D., associate professor, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan Medical School.

To take the sting out of summer, Andreae offers tips to help treat insect bites and stings, and advice on how to prevent mosquito and tick bites.
1) Remove the stinger. The first thing to do when stung by a bee or wasp is to look at the site to see if there's any remaining stinger. If there is, Andreae recommends that an adult use a firm object like a credit card to sweep across the site and pull out the stinger. Don't squeeze or pinch the skin to remove the stinger. This will cause additional venom to be released into the bite.

2) Clean the area. Use soap and water to thoroughly cleanse the site of the sting before applying ice or hydrocortisone cream.

3) Apply ice. "Most people are going to develop redness and swelling at the site of the sting," says Andreae. "A good approach to treating those reactions is to apply a cool compress or ice to the area."

4) Add hydrocortisone cream. Adding hydrocortisone cream to the site of the sting will help relieve redness and pain.

5) Take a pain reliever and an antihistamine. "You also can use Benadryl in the oral form to control redness, swelling and irritation, as well as ibuprofen or Tylenol to relieve the pain," says Andreae.

Should a severe allergic reaction occur - difficulty breathing or swallowing - Andreae says to call 911 and seek emergency care immediately.