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Discharge Instructions for Insect Bites and Stings

Insect bites and stings may be caused by a variety of bugs. They can cause skin itching, rashes, and swelling. Sometimes a bite or sting can cause a severe allergic reaction.

Most bites and stings can be safely treated with self care and medicines.

Steps to Take

Self Care

Clean the area with soap and water. Wash it 2 to 3 times each day until it has healed.

To ease swelling and discomfort, apply an ice pack to the area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.

Medications

Medicines to treat insect bites and stings may be:

  • Over-the-counter pain medicines
  • Medicines put on the skin—such as hydrocortisone cream
  • Antihistamines—to treat allergic reactions and itching
  • Antibiotics—if an infection is present or possible

Take all the antibiotics you are given. Do this even when you are feeling well.

When taking medicines:

  • Take your medicine as advised. Do not change the amount or schedule.
  • Be aware of the side effects of your medicine. Tell your doctor if you have any.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicines can be harmful when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one. This includes over the counter products and supplements.

Follow-up

Your doctor may need to check on your progress. Be sure to go to all advised appointments.

Problems to Look Out For

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection such as fever or chills
  • Severe headache or neck pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Unusual rash or swelling
  • Confusion or any other change in mental state
  • A red bull’s-eye circle on your skin
  • Sharp pain
  • Lightheadedness

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
https://acaai.org

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
https://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
https://www.ccohs.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Bug bites and stings. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/insect-bite.html. Accessed September 24, 2021.

Hymenoptera sting allergy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hymenoptera-sting-allergy-14. Accessed September 24, 2021.

Insect bites and stings. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/insect-bites-and-stings. Accessed September 24, 2021.

Stings: hymenoptera (bees, vespids, and fire ants). EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Accessed September 24, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 9/24/2021