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Having a Good Summer - What You Need to Know about Bites and Stings

separator Most of the time, bites and stings are annoying, maybe a little painful or itchy and then that’s that. No big cause for concern. But every now and then, you can have a bad reaction to a bite, either because of an allergy or because the offending critter is poisonous. 

For bites and stings in general
Usually, a reaction like mild swelling, pain and itching that stays in the area of the bite or sting isn’t anything to worry about. If you do get a bite, wash it with soap and water. Most allergic reactions don’t occur with the first or even the second bite. So you can’t assume you’re home free if you’ve been bitten by something and never noticed a reaction.

The most serious reaction to be aware of is anaphylactic shock. This allergic response can be life-threatening. It tends to come on quickly, usually within 30 minutes. Call 9-1-1 if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Throat and chest tightness
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Hives
  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing.

There’s a less severe allergic reaction that can cause swelling, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or headache. This doesn’t usually require emergency treatment, but you may want to ask a pharmacist for over-the-counter treatment. As a rule, people who have other allergies or asthma are more likely to have an allergic reaction to bites or stings.

About deer ticks and Lyme disease
You can get Lyme disease if you’re bitten by an infected deer tick. Since Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, oral antibiotics are the most common treatment. Catching Lyme disease early is important, because if it progresses, you can experience joint pain, heart problems and neurological problems. At that point, intravenous (given in the vein) antibiotics are usually necessary.

If you notice a rash (sometimes it resembles a bull’s eye, but not always) and flu-like symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting tested for the condition.

West Nile virus
People get West Nile virus from infected mosquitoes. The mosquitoes feed on infected birds, and then become infected themselves. At this point, it’s still rare to get the virus. Few mosquitoes actually have it. Even if you are bitten by an infected mosquito, there’s only a one percent chance that you’ll get severely ill. West Nile virus is not transmitted from person to person.

Avoiding and repelling the bugs…
To keep mosquitoes from breeding, don’t leave standing water around. This includes bird baths, a dog’s water bowl, a watering can…anywhere water sits. A small amount of water can breed a large amount of mosquitoes, so change standing water every day.

To keep bees from stinging, cover all food and garbage outside, and check your drinks before sipping. Avoid wearing floral prints and perfume. Shake out shoes and other clothing that’s been outside, and shake a blanket out before sitting down on it.

When you know you’re going to be around ticks or mosquitoes, the best repellant is one that contains DEET. Read the directions carefully before you apply it. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should use a repellant that contains only 10 percent DEET.

And if you know you’re severely allergic to anything, wear a MedicAlert bracelet.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; University of California at Davis;
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