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April 15, 2014

Insect stings and bites: Protect yourself!

Nothing says summertime quite like a relaxing vacation…and insect bites and stings. Generally speaking, mosquito bites, by far the most common, are nothing to worry about. Unless, of course, you’re allergic, in which case you need to be especially careful.

Causes

Some insects sting. These include:

  • Bees
  • Bumble bees
  • Wasps
  • Hornets.

When a bee stings, it sometimes leaves behind its stinger, which has a venom sac attached. This toxic liquid is then injected under the skin, destroying cells and causing immediate swelling. That is why it is important to rapidly remove the stinger with tweezers, while being careful not to crush the venom sac, if possible.

Other insects bite and suck blood. Examples of these are:

  • Ticks
  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Bedbugs
  • Fleas.

Insect repellents

To protect yourself from insect bites and stings, get into the habit of applying a thin layer of insect repellent in strategic areas (neck, ankles, clothing).

Products containing a 5-to-30-percent concentration of DEET provide adequate protection against insect bites. Choose a repellent that has a low DEET level and apply more often.

Concentration of DEET

Approximate protection time

Recommended for children?

30%

6 hours

No

15%

5 hours

No

Children

Under 6 months of age

Do not use insect repellent that contains DEET and avoid contact with mosquitoes by placing netting over strollers or by keeping infants in screened areas.

6 months to 2 years of age

Use an insect repellent with DEET (10% concentration or less) only if there is a risk of complications from insect bites. In such cases, apply only once a day.

From 2 to 12 years of age

Apply insect repellent with DEET (10% concentration or less), no more than three times a day.

Precautions

  • Avoid applying repellent on children’s hands.
  • Prolonged use should be avoided, especially on children.
  • Wash treated skin with soap and water when protection is no longer necessary.
  • Do not use repellent on open wounds, sores or on irritated or sunburned skin.
  • Avoid breathing in spray mists. Use only in well-ventilated areas.

Prevention

In addition to using insect repellent, here are a few tips to prevent insect bites and stings:

  • Remain calm. Some insects, like bees and wasps, only sting when they feel threatened.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants; avoid bright-coloured clothing.
  • Do not wear perfume or hairspray.
  • Stay away from garbage cans and water sources.

And remember that insects are often attracted by perspiration, beer, sweet drinks and scented sunscreens.

Treatment options

Only time can cure insect bites and stings.

In the meantime, these few tips may help to reduce their associated symptoms.

  • Apply ice to lessen the pain and swelling and prevent the spread of the venom.
  • Use calamine lotion to reduce itchiness.
  • Take an antihistamine to decrease allergy symptoms.
  • Apply a paste made of baking soda and water on the bite to diminish the marks left behind.

If you have experienced a serious allergic reaction in the past, you should carry an epinephrine needle.

In-store health services

Do you have questions about insect repellents or how to treat symptoms caused by insect bites and stings? Talk to your pharmacist. He’s there to help! 

Services in pharmacy are the sole responsibility of pharmacist-owners. Only pharmacists are responsible for pharmacy practice. They only provide related services acting under a pharmacist-owner's name.

The uniprix.com Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.