Insect Bites or Stings

Most insect bites cause local irritation and inflammation. In most children, localized swelling (area of the bite) may be noticed for several days. If stung, remove the stinger if still visible in the skin. 


Treatment:   Apply ice to area.

                    Apply paste of baking soda to insect bites, paste of meat tenderizer to stings.

                    A pea sized amount of minty toothpaste to the bite area has a numbing and cooling effect on the skin.

                    Can apply 1% Hydrocortisone cream to area 2-3 times/day 

                    Benadryl orally every 6 hours as needed for itching. 

                    Call 911 if any breathing difficulty is noted.

Follow-Up: If swelling or redness increase after 48 hours, if with purulent drainage, if with red streaks in area of bite or with fever



Learn to identify the types of spiders that are common to your area.  Most spider bites are not dangerous and will heal in a day or two. 

The Black Widow spider is black with a red hourglass shape on its underbelly.  It can be found in dark, quiet places, such as lawn furniture and in garages.  A bite from this spider is very painful, and results in headache, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and muscle spasms.  These symptoms occur within 30 minutes but could be delayed for 12 hours.

The Brown Recluse spider is light brown with a distinctive violin shaped marking on its back.  It lives in dark corners, under porches and in closets and basements.  Although its bite is mild, the area of the bite becomes painful, reddened and swollen within a day or two.

If bitten by a spider, clean the bite area with soap and water.  Elevate and apply ice to the area, and avoid strenuous exercise.  Seek medical attention if you think the bite is from a Black Widow or Brown Recluse spider.


Stinging insects such as wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets embed a sharp stinger into the skin and secrete venom.  Scorpions, centipedes and some caterpillars also sting.  To prevent stings, avoid recreational activities when bees and wasps are nearby.  Do not wear fragrances or brightly colored clothing when outside.

If stung by a bumblebee or honeybee, remove the stinger immediately by scraping with the edge of a plastic card or long fingernail.  Barbs from caterpillar stings can be dislodged by placing the sticky side of a piece of masking tape over the area and gently pulling it off.

Watch the person who has been stung for at least an hour for any severe allergic reaction (hives, wheezing, tongue swelling or inability to breathe properly).  If an allergic reaction develops, call 911.  If available use an allergy kit injection or administer chewable antihistamines.

For symptom relief, apply hydrocortisone cream 1%.  A cold pack applied to the bite area will reduce pain and swelling.


Fire ants usually attack with multiple burning stings causing local swelling, itching and pain.  In time, the sting area becomes a small pustule.  Fire ant stings usually go away in a few days with no ill effects.  

If there is a sign of infection, see a healthcare provider.  Applying cold compresses and topical hydrocortisone will relieve burning and itching.  Do not apply heat to the area and do not open the pustules because they may become infected.  Effective oral medications include ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and antihistamines.


Marine animal bites cause either puncture wounds or rashes.  Pain, swelling, and skin discoloration are the first signs, sometimes followed by vomiting, paralysis, seizures and breathing difficulties.

A puncture wound from a stingray appears as a laceration with blue edges, pain, swelling and some bleeding.  A scorpion-fish puncture wound has immediate and intense pain, a red halo, and rapid swelling.  Many small punctures accompanied by immediate and intense burning with severe muscle aching and evidence of venomous spines are probably the work of a sea urchin.

Rashes can be caused by bristle worm, fire coral, sea anemones (instant burning, itching hives), and jellyfish.  Most jellyfish create "tentacle prints", or a whip like pattern of darkened reddish brown or purple.  They can leave frosted and crosshatched stripes on the area of contact.

First aid for punctures and rashes includes washing the area to remove any visible pieces of spine or animal parts.  The area can be shaved with a dull knife or plastic card to remove smaller animal parts.  If the wound looks infected, see your healthcare provider.

For fire coral, jellyfish or sea anemone stings, liberally soak the rash with a 5% acetic acid (vinegar) to relieve the stinging.  Use 40% to 70% rubbing alcohol if no vinegar is available.  Apply the vinegar or alcohol for 30 minutes or until the pain is gone.  Ice or cold compresses after treatment may help to relieve swelling and itching. Do not use fresh water on jellyfish stings as it may cause the microscopic cysts to swell and burst, causing more stinging.


Sea Bather's eruption occurs within a few hours of bathing in the Caribbean, off the coasts of Mexico , Florida , Long Island, or New York .  It is caused by sea lice, the larvae of jellyfish.

The eruption (rash) consists of intense, itchy, red welts like mosquito bites in areas covered by swimwear.  The lesions usually go away without treatment in a few days, but some people experience severe rashes and reactions that include itching, fatigue, fever, chills, nausea and headache. 

Taking an oral antihistamine or applying a topical hydrocortisone cream will soothe the itching.

~Centers for Disease Control