Tips to Prepare for Stings and Bites this Summer

There’s never a better time than summer to head outdoors. Plenty of barbecues, backyard games and lazy afternoons relaxing amidst nature. While it can be all fun and games, it is also a time to watch out for stings and bites. Understanding the type of bug bites and insect stings and knowing how to treat them, will help keep the fun in the sun ongoing without ruining it for anyone in the family.

Types of bug bites and stings

The vast outdoors is home to a large variety of flying insects, bugs and crawling creatures. Whether you are at the beach, on a hike or simply soaking up the sun in your backyard, here are a few types of bug bites and stings to watch out for.

Mosquito bites

Mosquitoes are known to be more active mid-mornings and early evenings. Mosquito bites cause tiny red bumps on the skin resulting in a strong urge to itch. While severe reactions are rare, it is worth noting that mosquito bites may lead to infections and diseases. If a bite is followed by a fever, headache or body ache, it may be a cause for concern. Speaking to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist or doctor immediately for effective treatment options is advisable.

Tick bites

Tick bites may result in the spread of Lyme disease and accompanying illnesses. It is important to be mindful when venturing into moist areas and while playing with pets. Ticks are commonly found along Australia’s eastern coast. Paying close attention to hair, legs, underarms, waistline and groin areas is recommended. If a tick hasn’t yet attached itself, you can simply wash it off your body. However, if it has attached itself you will have to use a pair of tweezers to carefully lift it out of the skin by grabbing it by the head and pulling it outward without twisting. A tick bite may result in fever or upset stomach. Talking to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist will help to treat any tick-borne illnesses.

Jellyfish sting

A warm, sunny day at the beach can become unpleasant very quickly with a jellyfish sting. A jellyfish sting is known to be excruciatingly painful and, in most cases, scarring as well. Rinsing with a weak acid like vinegar has been known to keep the stingers from firing and causing pain. It is essential to remove the tentacles from the skin with a pair of tweezers before treating with anything.  Rubbing the affected area with a towel may force the tentacles to embed within the skin and cause more discomfort. Once the tentacles have been removed, immersing the area in warm water may provide some relief. Discuss with your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist options for oral or topical pain relievers.

Bee sting

When airborne insects like bees jab the skin, they leave behind a stinger attached to a venom sac. Removing the stinger without squeezing the venom sac is of paramount importance to ensuring the rest of the venom is not injected into the skin. Once the stinger has been removed with a tweezer, the affected area can be cleaned with soapy water and soothed with a cold compress. Signs for allergic reactions such as hives, swelling away from the site of the sting or nausea could be potentially dangerous as they could all be signs of anaphylaxis – a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Anaphylaxis and symptoms to watch out for

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction as a result of insect stings. Often insect bites and stings cause itching and swelling around the affected area, which settles within a couple of days. But it is important to watch out for strong symptoms after an insect sting, as anaphylaxis can be fatal. If any of the following symptoms occur, emergency services must be called immediately:

  • Tightness in chest or throat
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swollen face, lips or tongue
  • Dizziness

A sting in the mouth calls for immediate medical intervention as swelling may block airways. Your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist may be able to recommend over-the-counter antihistamines for relief from pain and itching. If swelling and pain persists beyond three days, you must see your doctor immediately to rule out possibility of infection.

Common medications for treatment

Before heading out for a day in the sun, be sure to grab your medicine box and ensure you have packed the essentials. For advice on what to pack, speak with your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist. Here are a few common treatment medications, which must be used only after consulting with a qualified health professional:

  • Topical hydrocortisone provides relief from redness, swelling and itchiness
  • Oral antihistamines are effective in soothing itchiness and skin rashes
  • An ice pack from the freezer helps reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Oral pain relief medications containing paracetamol or ibuprofen as advised by your doctor or local pharmacist

Top tips for preventing insect bites and stings

With a few preventive measures, spending time outdoors can still be an enjoyable summertime experience. Here are a few preventive measures to ensure your day out is not spoiled by nasty bites and stings.

Wearing appropriate clothing

Reduce skin exposure by covering up with long sleeved shirts, long pants that are tight around the ankles, socks pulled over the pants, closed footwear, gloves and a hat with a flap over the neck. If you are going into dense areas, it may be worth considering pre-treating outer layers of your clothing with an appropriate insect repellent containing active ingredients. Clothing must be treated as per directions specified on the product and allowed to dry for at least two hours before wearing. Light-coloured fabric in linen and cotton material are ideal.

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Using insect repellent

Protect your skin with a roll on or spray insect repellent that contains DEET. It is best to follow the instructions for application as printed on the product and if in doubt, discuss with your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist. Make sure you have applied plenty of sunscreen liberally and allowed it to dry before applying insect repellent sparingly.

Using bed nets

For when you are sleeping in the lap of nature, bed nets pre-treated with suitable insecticides are extremely useful.

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Being vigilant

Flying insects, bugs and crawling creatures often attack when they feel threatened. While enjoying the outdoors, be mindful about not disturbing their nests, hives or mounds. Largely flying insects build their nests and hives in bushes, tree limbs or under roofs. Sometimes you will also find them in moist areas under rocks or logs. If you do spot a nest, hive or mound, it is best left to professionals to remove it.

Reducing risks

While enjoying your picnic or cookout, it would be in the best interests of everyone to cover food and drinks as much as possible to prevent contamination by mosquitoes and other flying insects. Ensuring the garbage is well covered and cleared out often will maintain hygiene around the house. When out and about, insects are attracted to the salt and carbon dioxide that we emit when we perspire. Have a towel handy to wipe off sweat.

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Avoiding fragrances

Insects are attracted to strong fragrances. Deodorants, hairsprays, perfumes, cosmetics and even insect repellents that have an overpowering scented ingredient must not be worn when outdoors.

Pack well and prepare yourself for your outdoor adventure. The warm weather and cool waters are a perfect escape for a healthy mind and body. Discuss with your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist any concerns you may have for the most suitable treatment advice.

Pharmacist tips

  • Always cover up with long sleeves and long pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Keep a close eye on a bite or sting by drawing a circle around it with a pen to gauge its size. Monitoring it regularly to see if the swelling is increasing or decreasing will tell you if you need to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Be sure to seek your pharmacist’s advice on packing a topical corticosteroid and/or an oral antihistamine if you are known to have allergic reactions.
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